OAKLAND, Calif. -- Sure, it's only an exhibition game. But to Raiders fans who have suffered through years of missing the playoffs while the cross-bay San Francisco 49ers have flourished, it's a big deal.
When the Raiders play host to the 49ers on Monday night, the Oakland Coliseum will be sold out for the first time in nearly two years. It will be the first time the 49ers are playing in Oakland since the Raiders returned from Los Angeles in 1995.
"I'm excited to see what the stands are going to be like. In Philadelphia I was used to playing in front of full crowds," said Oakland cornerback Eric Allen, who'll be watching the game from the sideline when backups take over in the second or third quarter. "It'll be fun. I can't wait to have my hat on and look up in the stands and enjoy it."
Though Raiders coach Jon Gruden was an offensive assistant for the 49ers in 1990 and his father is a regional scout for San Francisco, Gruden has tried to treat it as just any other game.
"It's a pretty deep topic around here these days. I try not to be real deep," Gruden said. "It's just a preseason game. It just happens to be against a team next door to us that we haven't played in a long time."
While Bay area fans see the game as a chance for bragging rights, players know it will be their last chance to perform before roster cuts on Tuesday.
The 49ers had hoped the game would give them a chance to take more of a look at running back Lawrence Phillips, who has been limited in training camp by a hamstring injury, but he was injured again this past weekend.
Phillips took a knee to the thigh early in Saturday's practice and did not return to the field.
"I'm just hoping Lawrence will be able to go," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "It would be crazy for us to put him out there if he's not capable of playing, but hopefully he'll be able to go and have more carries than he's had."
Phillips missed the 49ers' first exhibition game to rest his strained right hamstring. He rushed for 6 yards on three carries in the second preseason game against Seattle.
The Raiders hope the game will help clarify their quarterback situation. Pat Barnes came into camp as the probable third-string quarterback, but has played poorly in Oakland's first two preseason games.
Scott Dreisbach was making a strong bid for the third-string job when he was injured while leading the Raiders to a 10-3 exhibition win over Dallas, and Oakland then got Bobby Hoying from Philadelphia in a trade.
Gruden was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when Hoying enjoyed his greatest success. Hoying is glad to be reunited with Gruden, but isn't sure that will give him an advantage in making the team.
"I don't think it's going to be easy just because I have been with him before," Hoying said. "He's a tough guy and a demanding guy."
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