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TJ21
08-17-2006, 07:39 PM
(Note: All articles that I post concerning the Oakland Raiders will recieve an obligatory thumbs down from now on. :) )

Raiders defensive end focusing on wins, not sacks

(08-10) 16:17 PDT Napa, Calif. (AP) --

Derrick Burgess didn't find much self-satisfaction in leading the NFL in sacks last season. With the Oakland Raiders finishing an abysmal 4-12 last and out of the playoffs for a third consecutive year, Burgess had little reason to celebrate the best season of his career.

There was a trip to the Pro Bowl Burgess' first and an appearance on ESPN's "Battle of the Gridiron Stars." Beyond that, the Raiders' defensive end wasn't too impressed with his accomplishment.

"I'd have a sack but we'd still get a (loss) so it really didn't matter," said Burgess, whose 16 sacks led all NFL players and broke a 19-year-old franchise record. "Win some games, that's my biggest thing right now. It's not an individual sport so basically all I'm worried about is winning games."

After playing in the NFC Championship game four straight years while with Philadelphia, Burgess was one of the few rays of sunshine in an otherwise tumultuous and disappointing season in Oakland.

The Raiders won just four games for the second straight year, finished winless in the AFC West for the first time in franchise history and ended the season on a six-game losing streak. That cost Norv Turner his job as Oakland's head coach after just two years and opened the door for the return of Art Shell.

Shell has devoted most of his time to reviving the Raiders' offense while leaving the defense in control of coordinator Rob Ryan, who escaped the firing ace and returns for his third year in Oakland.

Burgess, who turns 28 on Saturday, has quickly emerged as the cornerstone of Ryan's defense.

"The thing with Derrick Burgess is, he's scratching the surface," Ryan said. "That guy's special. He's a tough sucker, and what you see is what you get. He's a special guy and he's going to get better."

Burgess' 16 sacks, which broke Sean Jones' team record of 15.5 set in 1986, more than sufficiently quieted critics who believed injuries had robbed the former Ole Miss standout. Burgess had multiple sacks in six games last year and became the first Raider player to ever lead the NFL in sacks.

That he did so with little help from the rest of Oakland's defensive line made Burgess' accomplishments even more impressive. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp had five sacks but suffered a torn rotator cuff and missed the final six games of the season. No other Oakland player had more than 4.5 sacks.

Once Sapp went on injured reserve, opposing teams shifted their entire focus on stopping Burgess. Not that it worked. Burgess still recorded seven of his 16 with Sapp out of the lineup.

"He was consistent about how he went about his work, week in and week out. When you do that, good things are going to happen for you," Sapp said. "The kid's just a workaholic. I haven't had a guy like that beside me, you know, who just loves it and just wants it all the time."

Besides a healthy Sapp, Burgess should also benefit from the arrival of free agent defensive end Lance Johnstone. Signed in the offseason as a free agent from Minnesota, Johnstone has 70 career sacks and has reached double digits in that department four times.

The combination of Burgess and Johnstone, who will be used primarily on passing downs, should make it tough for opponents to key on one player.

"There's only so much they can do," Johnstone said. "They're going to have to pick their poison. Whoever is getting the one-on-one needs to be the guy that makes the play."

Burgess was that player last season. If he does it again in 2006 and the Raiders can back it up with a few more victories, the celebration can begin.

SP17BOLT
08-17-2006, 07:53 PM
Derrick Burgess shouldn't be a raider i feel bad for him.