Collins recharged after hunting trip

Outing back home in Carolina in bye week lifts Raiders QB's spirits

Late last week Kerry Collins flew back to North Carolina for the second time in seven days.

This time it wasn't to visit the Carolina Panthers. It was to settle in at his ranch, get away from football and recharge his batteries.

"I did a little hunting and just relaxed a little bit," Collins said. "It was nice."

No kidding. For at least a few days he could be the hunter, not the hunted.

Over his six starts, it has been open season on the Raiders quarterback. His travails have been well-documented. Of the 32 qualifiers among NFL passers, he currently ranks 31st, ahead of only Washington's Marc Brunell, who was sent to the bench this week.

Collins' rating: a sickly 65.4.

However, there have been encouraging signs the past three games. With 70 completions in 116 passes for 844 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions, his pass rating has come to a more acceptable 77.5.

His yardage totals have been way up over those three games. A full season at that 281.3 yard pace would give him 4,501 yards.

But that is not the most significant number. What is, is that interception figure.

After being picked eight times in 140 attempts in his first four games, he has cut that number in half.

In the NFL's complex four-category formula for grading quarterbacks, avoiding interceptions has been his strongest department in his past three outings -- better than completion percentage, touchdown percentage and average gain per attempt.

"I feel I am starting to get back to playing the way I play, you know?" Collins said Wednesday. "Norv and the coaches are doing a good job of finding what we have done well and building on that. I think we have found some things we do well and will continue to do."

Asked what the good and bad were, Collins dodged the subject artfully.

"The biggest thing I saw was I just need to keep doing these things, keep running the offense and keep finding the right guy and making good decisions," he said.

"I felt like that got better as I played. Is it always great? No. But I feel like I'm not pressing as much, not trying to make something out of nothing. I think that will give me a better chance in the second part of the season."

The bye week also provided him a chance to slow down what has been a whirlwind since Gannon's season ended Sept.26.

"It was good for me because there wasn't the pressure of having to get ready to play," he said. "And getting away and going back home ... was good for me too -- being able to get away from it.

"So I feel refreshed. I think it was at a good time. Obviously it helps to get a win before your bye week. I feel pretty good about the way things are going right now."

Fans, however, have let Collins have a piece of their minds in the past two home games, both losses. The one thing Collins is not is Rich Gannon. It is no illusion, though the reason why could be misinterpreted.

Much has been made about Collins being a downfield passer, Gannon an underneath operator. That has not been true. Collins has not been firing up missiles any more than Gannon, who has Oakland's longest completion of the year.

Moreover, under Gannon in the past, the Raiders operated under a system where calling audibles were a major factor. Under Collins, they are not.

Although Collins said there is room for more audibiles in Oakland than anywhere else he has ever played, he said it is not uncommon for him to do so only once or twice a game.

"The bulk of what I am trying to do is get up to the line, get into a rhythm, run the plays (as called) and try to execute efficiently," he said. "I'm feeling more comfortable doing it, but it's just not a huge part of what we do."

Is that because Collins doesn't feel comfortable doing it, or the coaching staff has a lack of confidence in his ability to do so?

No, as it turns out. Gannon said that under the new system, even he had been restricted from frequently calling audibles.

It's a new ballgame for everybody. Next up: to see where it leads.