Nnamdi Asomugha is spending a lot of time on the left side in practice these days. It's all part of the Raiders' plan to untether their Pro Bowl cornerback and take advantage of his considerable talent.
The Raiders have moved around Asomugha on occasion in the past. However, he has spent most of his time on the right side, despite his constant pleading to shadow the opponent's top wide receiver. Those pleas fell on deaf ears primarily because of the Raiders' long-held philosophy of keeping cornerbacks on one side of the field or the other.
"We've done it every year since I've been here," Asomugha said, "but there's been more of a feeling where people are listening. We're doing more things, and I love it. I've been playing all over the field pretty much. "... And that's great. It gets me more involved."
Raiders coach Tom Cable said he wants Asomugha to get practice and playing time on both sides during training camp and in his team's four exhibition games so that the expanded role feels natural once the regular season starts.
"Some of it is just being able to get him comfortable on both sides because of all the slot formations and corner over (the top)," Cable said. "And some of it has to do with him maybe lining up on the best receiver."
It's been easy for opponents to find Asomugha since he became a starter in 2005: Look to the far right of the field, close to the line of scrimmage, and there he was.
Opponents also were
In a game against the Denver Broncos last season, Asomugha shadowed receiver Brandon Marshall and held him without a reception for much of the game a week after he set an NFL record with 21 catches.
But the Raiders eventually reverted to their normal defensive approach, and by game's end, Marshall had caught seven passes for 73 yards and one touchdown. None of it came against Asomugha.
"I told 'Nnam the other day that it's boring being him because he runs up and down the field all game and gets one ball thrown his way," fellow cornerback Chris Johnson said. "With me, at least I want to work that day. I love competition, so you can call it teams picking on me. I call it working."
The great freeze-out on Asomugha came in response to his breakout season in 2006, when he intercepted eight passes and announced his arrival as an elite cornerback.
Asomugha, 29, now sees very few passes thrown his way. He has only one interception in each of the past three seasons.
Like any cornerback, Asomugha yearns for more action so that he can add to his interception total.
"You always want numbers," Asomugha said. "Those numbers help the team out. If they throw at you 10 times, you want all 10. "... It can get pretty frustrating."
The lack of interceptions leads some to dismiss Asomugha as a top-flight cornerback. That's pure folly, according to an AFC scout.
"I laugh at all the talk about Darrelle Revis being the best cornerback," the scout said of the New York Jets' standout "He's very good, don't get me wrong, but he gets a lot of interceptions because teams still throw his way. Asomugha's reputation as the best cornerback is well earned."