More relaxed Raiders are serious about making something out of the season

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — A new miniature basketball hoop was hanging in the Raiders locker room, and wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Ameer Abdullah went at each other trading shots as teammates looked on.

Adams noticed the large contingent of reporters watching the action Thursday and told them not to write this little bit of fun was why Las Vegas was losing, that the Raiders “were worrying about the wrong (stuff)" such as playing basketball when Adams could be working on catching the ball.

Then he made a shot, turned to the reporters and said, “Catch that (stuff).”

It was a time for levity in what has been a trying season for the Raiders that resulted this week in the firing of coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi and the benching of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

In their places are interim coach Antonio Pierce, interim GM Champ Kelly, offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree and rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell.

Later when Adams met with reporters, he cautioned that the fun and relaxed tone shouldn't be construed as “a celebration that we have a new coach and that there have been changes made."

“I think it was time, one way or the other, for some sort of change just to bring a little bit of juice in and revitalize the team a little bit,” Adams added. “I think it's more of a mindset moving forward to be as positive as possible.”

The Raiders are 3-5 going into Sunday's home game against the New York Giants, and they come off consecutive road losses to the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, each embarrassing for different reasons.

Chicago beat Las Vegas 30-12 behind a quarterback who was playing Division II football a year ago. And the Lions defeated the Raiders 26-14 before a national Monday night audience in a game that in reality wasn't as close as the score. Detroit outgained the Raiders 486-157.

Those performances and the overall direction of the team prompted owner Mark Davis to take major actions late Tuesday night by first dismissing McDaniels and Ziegler, who were brought over less than two years ago from the New England Patriots.

“I took a lot from Josh,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “We had a great relationship. He was very open with me. We had a lot of conversations from real-life stuff to football stuff. He constantly was hard on me about being the best leader I can be. He was around Tom Brady up close and personal for a long, long time. He was able to be around the best quarterback and arguably the best leader of all time.”

Adams said he was thankful to McDaniels and Ziegler for paving the way for him to come to Las Vegas after spending his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

“I'm really appreciative for them because if they didn't fight as hard as they did to make this happen, who knows how it would've panned out?” Adams said.

“It didn't end up being the storybook finish we hoped it would be, but at the end of the day, you can't live your life saying, 'What if I had not come here? What if they had not taken the job?' You've got to make decisions and live with them."

As for moving forward, Adams will now work with a different coach, different offensive coordinator and different quarterback.

He noted Pierce wouldn't have a direct hand in the offense given his defensive background, but that a new offensive coordinator could implement significant changes. As for the QB, Adams said he has been impressed with O'Connell's approach to the game.

“You see him working on his craft and always ready for his opportunity," Adams said. "That means a lot because there's been so much up and down and shifting with the quarterback. The way he works on his body and all of that is a lot more mature from what I've seen from a first-year quarterback. In my history in Green Bay, those guys were great, but I just see something different as far as his intentionality and the way he goes about his business. It's a recipe for success.”

O'Connell said he has been so busy preparing to face the Giants that he hasn't had much time to absorb the news of becoming the starter.

“It was obviously a crazy few days,” O'Connell said. “These conversations happen quick because we've got to get going and start getting to work. They've voiced their confidence in me and been super supportive of me from AP (Pierce) to Champ and Bo.”