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FILE -- Oakland Raiders' tackle Mario Henderson is entering his fourth NFL season. With the departure of QB JaMarcus Russell, Henderson is getting a fresh start. (Anda Chu/Staff)

Every Jason Campbell pass soared through the Alameda air as an on-target spiral, once a rarity on the Raiders' practice field.

Every Darrius Heyward-Bey catch looked alarmingly natural, knocking his drop-happy reputation off its axis.

Every Hue Jackson chirp added the perfect spice, further endearing the new offensive coordinator to his troops and onlookers.

All of which made it easy to overlook left tackle Mario Henderson in Wednesday's offseason training activities.

When an offense clicks like the Raiders did — whether on a partly cloudy May morning or a bone-chilling December afternoon — the left tackle should go unnoticed.

This new-look Raiders offense obviously needs Henderson to give Campbell enough time to throw the ball to Heyward-Bey, as well to Darren McFadden and "... and "... well, there still is time to add a veteran receiver (egads, even Terrell Owens).

Henderson's chief concern is where it needs to be — with Henderson.

"You know I've got a lot of stuff to prove, a lot of stuff," he said. "I'm really going to take that big challenge upon myself."

Henderson is entering his fourth NFL season, but this truly is a new beginning for him. He is not blocking anymore for JaMarcus Russell's notorious backside.

Will Henderson be blocking for Campbell, who's becoming further entrenched as the starter a month after being acquired from the Washington Redskins?


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Rookie Jared Veldheer, a third-round draft pick out of Hillsdale College, is a leaner option who will be afforded time to catch up to NFL-caliber competition.

So expect Henderson to enter the season as the starter at left tackle, a role he wants for the next "1,000 years" with the Raiders. As for last year, he struggled at times, but he was a junkyard dog, asked to protect Russell.

The addition of Campbell as an accurate, efficient and mobile quarterback makes life easier for Henderson and his linemates.

"It's crazy. For him to be able to come here, be able to grasp the offense and take control of it as fast as he did, it's amazing," Henderson said of Campbell. "It just goes to show you the type of guy he is and the type of hard worker and studier he is."

If that sounds like the opposite of Russell, wait until you read the following Henderson quote:

"Now I can get adjusted as to where (Campbell) steps up in the pocket, (and) I know he's accurate, as far if it's a seven-step drop, I know he'll take seven; if it's five (steps), I know he's going to take five. That's good to be accurate."

Russell's baffling footwork in the pocket was among his many faults. Campbell is so smooth, and he doesn't look winded or inconvenienced when he scrambles out of the pocket.

Running that offense in energetic fashion is Jackson. He constantly coaches up his players and enthusiastically taunts defenders, as he did to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha after Campbell and Heyward-Bey hooked up on a short pass Wednesday.

"He helps build us up," Henderson said. "Say if I'm blocking one play and I hear Hue talking smack to the defense, I think, 'OK, let's do this.' "

As for coach Tom Cable, he is supervising instead of micromanaging. Cable used to be attached at the hip with his offensive line, the unit he coached before replacing Lane Kiffin four games into 2008. But Cable is not forgotten by the kid he inserted at left tackle toward the end of that 2008 season.

Said Henderson: "Honestly, he was like a father figure to me. I'm sure he doesn't know it. He really took me on and challenged me. I never had a father, never knew my father or anything like that.

"In college (Florida State), I had a few different coaches. When I first came here, he took me under his wing. He was like a father figure and a coach. He would really get on my (butt) 1,000 times harder than anyone else."

Cable is still willing to do that.

"(Henderson) is like the whole group: They've progressed, but there is still more to go," said Cable, also agreeing that the quarterback switch has afforded the group a fresh start. "Everybody now has moved forward, and we're trying to be a good offensive football team."

Henderson needs to be good for the Raiders to be good. And not just in May.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/CamInman.