Raiders step back from on-field smack talk

ALAMEDA — Football is an emotional game. It can be chippy at any level, especially in the NFL.

And much was made of a verbal altercation during halftime between Raiders linebacker Sio Moore and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, one which a fan recorded and eventually posted online.

Moore sent Kaepernick an expletive-laden message and later posted on his Instagram, calling the quarterback a “freaking chump.” One day after the game, Raiders head coach Tony Sparano said he hadn’t yet spoken with Moore about it, only that Moore is a passionate game and that it takes two to tango.

Wednesday, Sparano gave his opinion on trash talk as a whole:

“I don’t think it’s a huge part of the game. It’s not something that you’re coaching. But every player is built a little bit different. Some players, that gets them going a little bit. I’ve been around some players where that really fuels their fire. And some players I’ve been around don’t say a peep. I think it really depends on the individual.”

Sparano, coaching a team looking for its third win in a season that will be over soon, seemed to issue a ‘whatever works’ sentiment, so long as it doesn’t result in a penalty or hurt the team in another way.

Like Kaepernick — despite his general lack of discussion with the local media — Moore comes off as a very passionate player, and certainly a passionate human being. He speaks with generosity, conviction, and general truthfulness, something that isn’t often the case in sports these days.

He’s one of the many players on the Raiders’ roster with a chip on his shoulder, and told SFBay during training camp that he has a personal vendetta against teams that whiffed on drafting him. The Kaepernick altercation, though, especially in the days of social media and the instant delivery of information, could bolster a negative image, a la Richard Sherman.

The two are similar in their approach to football and their vocal nature on and off the field. Moore has yet to play in a playoff game that receives millions of viewers, though with an vastly improving team, that possibility could become a reality. And sketch out a love-hate relationship with NFL fans.

Moore has credentials. One of 17 rookies of the week in 2013, a year he tallied 4.5 sacks, he’s become an important piece to the future of the Raiders organization. His local fan base is undeniable. And while his 2014 season started slow, his statistics have recently picked up in a major way.

There’s the question, though, of whether verbal altercations are good for a team, or even good for the league.

Of course there’s going to be a ratings boost when a player, particularly a good player, becomes known as a good trash talker. Time has shown it can be good for a team. In the cases of Terrell Owens and players who display certain antics, though, history has trended into negative realms.

What keeps Moore out of the category of Owens and Ochocinco is his team-first mentality. He really cares for his teammates and is not afraid to be coached up, especially by guys like Charles Woodson or Justin Tuck.

Smack-talk isn’t part of Moore’s game, nor is excessive celebration, though he was guilty of that when the Raiders beat Kansas City in Oakland two weeks ago.

It’s something, Moore says, isn’t even in his memory bank when the two teams clash on Sunday:

“I know they flushed it, I know we gotta flush it. I know that we gotta go out there and swing with everything we got, because I know they’ll come and swing with everything they got. That’s what it’s about right now.”

Moore wasn’t interesting in re-hashing any conversation with Kaepernick or any other former opponent. He also says that trash-talk isn’t part of his game, though he does want his opponents to know he’s not done until the final whistle:

“I thrive on playing football and being a teammate to the other guys out there, sacrificing, giving everything I got. Letting them know that I’m giving everything I got. I don’t try to get into anyone’s head, I try to play football. … I try to send a message that there’s no backdown in my team, that there’s no backdown in my defense.”

Altercations will continue to swirl in a passionate game, and drive Internet traffic and television ratings more than some feel is necessary. The Raiders locker room, though, doesn’t seem to want it to affect them. Nor do they want it to be their national calling card, something made clear during this week’s media sessions.

It’s all eyes on the Chiefs, who the Raiders visit Sunday morning at 10 a.m. PT.


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