Rich Gannon is more than a year removed from his MVP award, turns 39 in December, and swears he is 100 percent healthy and not the least bit concerned about the addition of backup Kerry Collins to the Oakland Raiders' quarterback mix.
Gannon's still No. 1 in the minds of the Raiders and Collins, too.
``I'm as hard on myself as anybody,'' Gannon said Tuesday, when the Raiders began a three-day voluntary minicamp. ``I set the bar very high - I think as anyone who's been around me would know. I don't really need anybody to come in to make me work harder to compete, to help me focus or challenge myself.
``In my opinion, I'm here to work with Kerry and help him and help our team win. That's what my focus is going to be.''
Gannon had one of the most productive offseasons of his 17-year career as he recovered from surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder. He's been throwing almost every day this spring.
He was knocked out of the Raiders' 17-10 loss to Kansas City last Oct. 20 and had surgery in November.
``If I threw three days a week in the offseason that was a lot. Now I'm throwing every day,'' Gannon said. ``I'm much further ahead than I would have been had I not had the surgery.''
He has looked crisp and strong in both minicamps so far. He completed a few passes of more than 25 yards Tuesday, though the bulk of his tries were shorter than 15.
There had been speculation the Raiders might opt not to take on the $7 million salary Gannon is set to make in 2004 - and he has repeatedly said he won't take a pay cut. The franchise hasn't seemed to lose faith in the man who led them to the 2002 Super Bowl.
``I've seen Rich from the other side of the field numerous times,'' new coach Norv Turner said. ``Seeing him on this side of the field, he's throwing the ball extremely well. He's one of the more accurate guys I've ever been around.''
The Raiders contacted Gannon to inform him they planned to sign Collins, a big, strong-armed quarterback who led a team to the Super Bowl just over three years ago. He was released by the New York Giants on April 28, four days after they acquired Eli Manning, the No. 1 pick in the draft.
``I don't know what people think, but I do have some intelligence,'' Gannon said. ``You know, I am 38 years old. I think that they looked at what happened a year ago when I did get hurt and they probably felt like they needed to continue to try and improve that position. And, so, it made a lot of sense to me. It didn't surprise me at all.''
After Oakland ended last season 4-12 only a year after winning the AFC title - the worst collapse by a previous year's Super Bowl team - Gannon criticized the Raiders. He believes he unfairly became the organization's scapegoat in the first seven weeks of the season when no one stepped forward to take responsibility for the failures.
He later met with owner Al Davis.
During the Raiders' Super Bowl season, Gannon led the NFL's top offense and broke the league completions record with 418 on the way to MVP honors. He led the NFL with 4,689 yards passing.
Turner plans to give Gannon and Collins nearly equal reps during this minicamp and in training camp, which begins July 30.
Collins said he understands his position.
``Rich is certainly capable of running this offense and running it well,'' Collins said. ``All I know is what the situation is right now, and I don't think the situation is going to change any time soon. ... I certainly feel that I'm a starting quarterback in this league, but that's not my role here. But that's not going to keep me from working hard in practice and competing in practice with the young guys.''
Marques Tuiasosopo, the No. 2 quarterback last season before going on injured reserve with a torn ligament in his left knee, is not excited about his diminished role, but plans to stay ready in case he's needed.
He's expecting only about 15 to 20 reps per practice during camp.
``It's something pretty much out of my control,'' he said. ``I have to go out and focus on getting better and keep playing. ... I've competed my whole life. This is nothing new.''