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All eyes on Carson Palmer as the Raiders try to save a season


Tommy Kelly was holding forth on new arrival Carson Palmer at the Raiders facility on Wednesday afternoon, while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Hustle or Die."

"He didn't look rusty to me," Kelly said of the new acquisition. "He's Carson Palmer. He's a known commodity."

The Raiders are hustling right now. They made a mad dash at Palmer this week, wresting him free of the Cincinnati Bengals and paying a desperate price to do it. They appear to be hustling Palmer straight into the lineup -- there are reports that Palmer will start against Kansas City on Sunday.

The Raiders are in a big hurry to get somewhere meaningful. To get past the torpor of their recent years. They leapt onto the momentum train as it passed through Oakland and hope it takes them on their best trip in eight years.

There's an energy and hopefulness around the Raiders that hasn't been there for a long time. That's why the players gave a unanimous thumbs up to the Raiders mega-deal that shocked the NFL. Two significant draft picks for a player who might be on the downside of his career.

"You can't complain as a player," Kelly said. "You know the man is going to do what he needs to do to help the team."

"The man" is Hue Jackson, who has swiftly and stunningly replaced Al Davis as Emperor of the Raiders, with apparent unlimited authority. It is Jackson who swung the deal for Palmer, Jackson who made the call. And Jackson who will ultimately be judged harshly if the deal goes wrong.

Jackson -- who recruited Palmer at USC, coached him in Cincinnati and has coveted him for some time -- hopes his team is getting the message loud and clear. "What do you think?" Jackson said. ""No doubt, we expect this team to expect to win. Whatever it takes to win, we're going to do."

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And that includes acquiring Palmer.

The Palmer deal happened because of a unique confluence of events, kind of a Halley's Comet moment for the Raiders. Davis died. Jason Campbell broke his collarbone. The trade deadline was bearing down. And Jackson -- filling the Raiders vacuum with newfound and unchecked authority -- had the connections,ability and willingness to overpay to convince the Bengals' Mike Brown to finally deal Palmer.

Add a final extremely rare event: the Raiders are winning and desperately want to hold onto their momentum. Without that sense of urgency to get on track, to honor Davis with a winning season, to maintain the upward trajectory the team is on, the deal doesn't happen. But it happened and now the rush is to get Palmer ready to start.

"I'm preparing as though that's the case," Palmer said. "I definitely have some rust to wear off. I haven't thrown to NFL receivers in a while... I haven't thrown to guys who can run like this."

There's a school of thought that with a running game led by Darren McFadden -- whom Palmer said he was "very excited to play with" -- and receivers who are not cut out of the selfish Chad Ochocino mode, Palmer can put his dismal recent numbers behind him. He said he's not motivated to prove his critics wrong but to prove what he can do.

"The motivation is that I expect certain things of myself, that the things I do equal wins," Palmer said.

Palmer plunged right in, tapping into the Raiders urgency theme. "There's nothing else to life right now," he said. "You can't do enough. There's such a short amount of time."

The Raiders have been involved in blockbuster deals before. Davis traded a first-round pick (No. 7 overall) for Randy Moss in 2005. In 2002, he received two first-round picks and two second-round picks from Tampa for Jon Gruden. Neither being on the buying or selling end of those trades resulted in longterm success for Oakland. Nor did Minnesota do much with its first-round pick for Moss, which it used on wide receiver Troy Williamson. Tampa, on the other hand, made a bold move and won a Super Bowl under Gruden.

The moral is that all trades are crapshoots. All drafts are crapshoots (see Russell, JaMarcus). The Raiders are hoping this move pays off. Right now they're living for the moment, and hustling desperately to make something happen.