Monte Poole's column incorrectly reported that Tuesday's practice was the first for Richard Seymour under the Oakland Raiders' new coaching staff. Seymour participated in three April workouts that were closed to the media.
Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly has been in the NFL for eight seasons, all with the Raiders, who in that time have lost 87 of 128 games.
Quarterback Carson Palmer has started a combined 106 games in Cincinnati and Oakland, and he has a 50-56 record.
Safety Michael Huff has been a Raider for six seasons, during which the team has lost two of every three games (32-64).
Three quality performers with a cumulative 22 seasons in the league, and the only two winning seasons were Palmer's Bengals in 2005 and 2009.
Such is the brutal recent history behind some of Oakland's notable veterans, the naked truth laid bare before first-year head coach Dennis Allen. His quest is to generate faith from a group of professionals whose experience consists mostly of failure. And if he can't work this mental magic quickly enough he'll be out of a job.
"It's the most critical thing that we're doing; I think it's the most critical thing in all of football," Allen said Tuesday, after his team's first full-squad workout. "The mind is the most powerful muscle in the body. You can make yourself do things that, as long as you set your mind to it, people might ordinarily think can't be accomplished. The mindset is everything."
A key component of Allen's adjustments officially began Tuesday when every healthy player jogged onto the practice field for the first full-squad workout under the new staff.
The three-day minicamp, which is mandatory, unlike previous organized team activities, offers the final on-field preparations before the opening of training camp late next month. Pleasantries are dropped and everyone's eyes come open, for better or worse.
"What you say, what you do, how you act -- coaches and players -- we're all being evaluated," Allen said. "They're evaluating us, and we're evaluating them."
Allen and rookie general manager Reggie McKenzie are attempting the most dramatic culture change in Raiders history after Al Davis, the late former owner, unilaterally presided over the franchise for nearly 50 years.
This, then, is not only about a new management but also an entirely new process, requiring every coach and certainly every player to be open-minded and engaged.
"That's what it's all about," Allen said. "We spend a lot of time talking about the mindset, how we're going to play the game and mental toughness. We talk way more about mental toughness than physical toughness because all of us play the game physically. It's the mental part that we have to push through."
We've seen the recent Raiders teams, seen them enough to know that talent alone can collapse under a heap of mental and physical errors. That speed alone can be slowed. That size alone can be neutralized. That youth alone can be exploited.
Allen seems to understand dedication to task and intelligent confidence are, above all other characteristics, at the foundation of every winning organization.
He used this approach as a rookie defensive coordinator last season in Denver, and the Broncos responded. After finishing dead last among NFL teams in total defense in 2010, they rose to 20th in 2011.
If there is one Raider familiar with a winning mentality, it's defensive lineman Richard Seymour. In his first eight seasons, in New England, the Patriots were 97-31 -- with four Super Bowl appearances and three championships.
During Seymour's three seasons in Oakland, the Raiders are 21-27.
Seymour was encouraged by what he saw when he came out to meet the staff a few months ago. Those feelings continue to grow.
"They're really smart guys that understand the game," Seymour said after Tuesday's workout. "They understand what they want and they do a good job of teaching how to get it done. That's a quality that's overlooked in the NFL. Even though you (might) have talented athletes, you still need to teach them what to do and how to do it."
Seymour's point is that communication has improved. Details are being stressed. A message is being delivered that will be fully received only by those willing to adapt and commit, particularly mentally, and be held accountable.
"Those are the guys you win with in the fourth quarter," Seymour said. "They're going to be where they're supposed to be. They're going to do exactly what you need them to do. You can't baby-sit anybody, but we want to lead by example."
Seymour has to be first among those guys. He knows it. Allen implies it.
"To have success ... your veteran players have to be able to take over the team," Allen said. "The closer we can get our veteran players' vision of what this team is going to become -- to what we as coaches believe -- the better and more cohesive we'll be."
The "scholarship program" under Davis has ended. A movement is afoot. It'll be a few months before we can truly begin to measure its success, but the job is massive and a lot of bad habits must be broken.