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[July 02, 2009]

Al Davis' new idea: move former Boise State tight end O'Neill to linebacker: The Raiders' owner has asked the former Boise Statetight end to change positions.

Jul 02, 2009 (The Idaho Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Chris O'Neill received a phone call from the Oakland Raiders the other day.

The next call, he was told, would be from owner Al Davis himself.

When O'Neill answered, he heard the voices of Davis and head coach Tom Cable explaining a wild idea.

They had decided to move O'Neill -- an undrafted rookie who played at Boise State last season -- to middle linebacker, a position he never has played.

"I'll do whatever they tell me to do," said O'Neill, who was a rush end at his California high school. "... I'm so excited to get in there and show what I can do. I'm going to have that little anxiety moving to a new position, but the coaches aren't going to throw me out there without a life preserver." In fact, O'Neill considers the switch a positive for his chances of making the team. The Raiders told him they would keep nine (seven active, two practice squad) of the 11 linebackers now on the roster, but just two of the six (including O'Neill) tight ends.

"I feel when they're making a switch like this they have to devote a lot of time and effort to the player," O'Neill said. "If they just saw me as a camp body, they probably wouldn't be making this type of switch, so I think they see something they like." O'Neill spent an extra week with the Raiders last month after offseason practices wrapped up to learn some of the defense.

Rookies report back July 20 and training camp opens July 29.

O'Neill was told that Davis came up with the idea of moving him to defense after watching him practice at tight end and on special teams. The change occurred at the end of the offseason practices, so he only got a taste of defense.

O'Neill (6-foot-3), who bulked up to 260 pounds, plans to slim down to 250. He's spending part of his break studying a DVD and playbook to figure out the defense.

"I spent some extra one-on-one time with the coaches before I left," he said. "One to two hours a day, I'm sitting down at my kitchen table with a remote, fast-forwarding and rewinding." Chadd Cripe: 377-6398 To see more of the Idaho Statesman, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, The Idaho Statesman, Boise Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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