Raiders publicly back Heyward-Bey

The Oakland Raiders are clearly behind Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Out of the blue, Oakland sent out a press release Saturday afternoon supporting Heyward-Bey, who struggled mightily as a rookie after being the No. 7 overall pick and being paid $23 million in guaranteed money. The press release listed all the great receivers to come through Oakland and then stated Heyward-Bey could be the next great one.

This release is significant because Oakland rarely sends out press releases to announce news. It is trying to send a message here:

Here is the press release:

Raiders Owner Al Davis has always said that the Raiders have had the greatest players, greatest coaches, played in the greatest games and participated in the greatest plays in the history of professional football. The Raiders have been dominant in terms of winning. The greatest wide receivers in professional football have passed through the portals of the Oakland Raiders or have been coached by Davis.

Lance Alworth

Willie Gault

Art Powell

Andre Rison

Warren Wells

Bob Chandler

Fred Biletnikoff

Jerry Rice

Cliff Branch

Tim Brown

James Lofton

Randy Moss

Now Darrius Heyward-Bey, the Raiders’ top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, is prepping to join that select group. Heyward-Bey has enjoyed a workmanlike offseason where he has put in time and energy to prepare for his second NFL campaign, when many of those whose names mentioned blossomed in professional football competition.

“I’m just working on my game, using this opportunity to get better, to work with my quarterbacks and my teammates,” said Heyward-Bey following a recent OTA session. “Just going out, just playing my game. That’s all I’m doing right now. And I’m using each practice to reach my goals.”

The list of wide receivers should make any pundit or so-called expert think twice before putting negativity on Heyward-Bey. No one has come close to the excellence at wide receivers that have worn the Silver and Black. These performers have been the greatest players who have ever played the game.

Hey, it’s great that Oakland is behind Heyward-Bey. It should be. By all accounts, Heyward-Bey has made recent strides in organized team activities.

He was criticized last year as a rookie when he dropped way too many passes and made no impact. He showed he has a long way to go.

That doesn’t mean he will be a bust. He has a chance to do good things because he has a decent skill set. But he has to show it during the season. Again, the Raiders believe he can, but stating that players such as Biletnikoff and Brown were great Raiders so Heyward-Bey can do the same, puts unneeded pressure on a player who already has a lot at stake.

But again, give credit to Oakland for being loyal to its own.