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Raiders' Kiffin stays as coach, but status still uncertain

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Lane Kiffin went through his usual routine Monday, watching game film, meeting with the media and doing all the other tasks as Oakland Raiders head coach.

How much longer he will have those responsibilities remains an open question.

The Raiders did little to dampen talk that Kiffin's job is in jeopardy. There were reports over the weekend that owner Al Davis wanted to fire his coach because he was upset about a string of critical comments Davis viewed as a form of insubordination.

"There are certain things I can control, there's certain things I can't," Kiffin said. "This happens to be the next one. He has a decision to make. It does me no good to worry about it right now."

Instead, Kiffin will start preparing for Sunday's game at Buffalo, whether he will still be the coach by then or not. He said he wants to keep his job.

Kiffin added he had not spoken to Davis recently, but the two are expected to meet early this week. Kiffin stressed that the lack of contact the past week wasn't necessarily unusual.

"Don't make a big deal out of it. That's very normal," he said. "We don't sit next to each other on the plane. Al's not around as much as he used to be. He's around the office or he's at practice. He wasn't there all last week, so I didn't see him."

The questions about Kiffin's status have been lingering over the organization since January, when the coach and owner were at odds over the defensive coordinator in a dispute that led to Davis sending Kiffin a letter of resignation to sign.

The feud has simmered ever since Davis overruled Kiffin and kept defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on staff. Kiffin has been publicly critical of personnel moves since then, distancing himself from moves he felt were made by the owner. Kiffin admitted Monday he probably could have handled his relationship with management better.

He acknowledges it's not easy to do his work amid all the reports about his job security but was proud of how his team has stayed focused.

"I don't think it helps. But like I said, I can't do anything about it," Kiffin said. "So all I can do is try to get our coaching staff to stay together in this type of situation, our players to stay together, and they did it last week. Our players did a great job in not allowing it to be a distraction for them."

The recent reports overshadowed Oakland's 23-8 victory over Kansas City that at least partially erased the disappointment of a season-opening 41-14 loss to Denver.

But instead of savoring a road win over a rival that included the first career touchdowns for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and the Raiders' first 300-yard rushing game in 21 years, the players were greeted with more off-field questions.

"We've been dealing with that since March, or whatever; they've been going back and forth with it," receiver Ronald Curry said. "You just worry about the things that you can control. I mean, it's business, and hopefully it doesn't happen. I think Kiffin does a great job, but it's Al's team and I think Kiffin knew that when he got here. Everybody knows what's going on."

Curry said it was up to the veterans to pull aside the younger players to make sure they focused on what happens on the field and the things they can control. Kiffin is the fourth coach Curry has played for since being drafted by Oakland in 2002.

Center Jake Grove has been part of three coaching regimes since being drafted in 2004, having watched Norv Turner and Art Shell get fired already. He says he's learned to tune out those kinds of distractions because they can only take away from the performance on the field.

"When you first get here you don't know what's going on. You're just glad you're in the NFL," Grove said. "After you've been here a while you realize that you better not pay attention to that stuff because if you do and you let it affect your play, you're not going to be in the NFL. I don't think it really matters to us."

Kiffin said some players did call him Sunday night after returning home to see reports of Kiffin's possible firing on the late news. He told the players not to worry about it.

While few players were around on a day off Monday, the message appeared to have gotten through.

"I can't be worried about that. I'll let everybody upstairs worry about that," linebacker Thomas Howard said. "He'll be here next week. He's here now. He's our head coach. He's coaching us and we're going to try to keep winning games for him."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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