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Schaub getting his mojo back

A bust in Texas, new Raiders QB looks to take team to new heights

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NAPA, Calif. -- The other three quarterbacks in the AFC West relocated their game, and now Oakland's Matt Schaub is looking to follow suit.

Schaub, whose career was kaput in Houston, is looking to run a "rebootleg" with the Raiders, a franchise coming off consecutive four-win seasons. He's likely to be a short-term solution, with rookie second-rounder Derek Carr waiting in the wings, but most any opportunity is better than what Schaub had with the Texans, who traded him in March for a sixth-round pick.

"Schaubby's getting his mojo back," said Raiders defensive tackle Antonio Smith, who played with him in Houston. "He's getting his confidence back. He's starting to believe in himself again. He is starting to throw with confidence."

For a reminder of how quarterback careers can be salvaged, Schaub need only glance around the division. Denver's Peyton Manning overcame four neck surgeries that many people predicted would end his career. San Diego's Philip Rivers was the 2013 comeback player of the year, after committing a combined 47 turnovers in the previous two seasons. Kansas City's Alex Smith was deemed a bust, a terrible No. 1 overall pick, before rising from the ashes in San Francisco and redefining his legacy.

Now, Schaub gets his chance. He had plenty of success as Houston's starter the last seven seasons, leading the Texans to AFC South titles in 2011 and '12. He struggled last fall, however, and was benched in October in favour of rookie Case Keenum. Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, would get his starting job back in December, but he couldn't stop the Texans' losing slide, which reached a franchise-high 14 games.

Schaub made NFL history last season in a way he never hoped. He was responsible for pick-six touchdowns in a record four games in a row. Nine of Schaub's 14 interceptions last season came in the first five games.

Like most quarterbacks, Schaub has snapped off the rearview mirror and is solely focused on his fresh start and what lies ahead.

"If you want to be successful whatsoever in this league you have to have a short-term memory, good or bad," he said after a recent training-camp practice.

"If you throw a touchdown pass or two in a row, and things are going great, you've got to put that behind you because it's about that next play.

"If you throw two interceptions and you're down 10-0 in the first quarter, you've got to put that away and be able to play that next down or else you're not doing your team right. That's just the nature of the game."

Even the darkest days of last season didn't dampen his passion for the job.

"I'd be lying, and anybody would be lying, if I said there wasn't a single moment throughout the course of an entire year -- off-season, training camp, whatever -- when you're trying to get out of bed and you're just like, 'Man, why do I do this to myself?' " he said. "But then you get to work and you just love it."

Oakland's roster is loaded with players who succeeded (and in many cases faded) with other organizations, among them running back Maurice Jones-Drew, cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and defensive linemen Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Smith.

"I guess you could say a lot of guys around here have a chip on their shoulder," Rogers said.

Count Schaub among them, although he doesn't seem embittered about the way his career with Houston ended. He credits the support of not just his Texans teammates, but also a host of retired quarterbacks for helping him through some of the tougher times. He fielded calls of encouragement from retirees such as Kurt Warner, Steve Young, Jeff Garcia and Trent Dilfer, all of whom weathered their share of highs and lows in the league.

"It's special when they reach out to you because they're taking time out of their schedules to share a few words of wisdom with you as a player," said Schaub, 33. "It did me well."

Former Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards, now a reserve in Oakland, said Schaub "has made a big impression" with teammates so far, mostly in how hard he works. Edwards said he was impressed last season with the way Schaub stayed aggressive even when the game wasn't going his way.

"Matt, he's one of those guys from the film I watched last year, where if he throws a pick he's still in there the next play throwing a dagger. He's not checking the ball down," Edwards said.

Edwards said he always studies how a quarterback responds in the immediate aftermath of a bad play.

"It's turnovers and incompletions, and when you get hit good," he said. "If you watch a defensive end come untouched and you get rocked, how does that quarterback respond on the very next play? That's what I like to watch. Peyton Manning gets up and delivers accurately. Tom Brady does, Drew Brees does. There are some guys that just fold. Those are the telling plays."

In a larger sense, Edwards and several of his teammates have a similar chance with their careers now. They can fold, or throw the dagger.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 11, 2014 C6

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