NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders thought so highly of Andrew Walter a year ago that they passed on the chance to draft Matt Leinart, believing they already had the quarterback of their future.
That all changed after Walter had a disappointing debut last year as part of one of the worst offenses in NFL history. The Raiders responded by using the No. 1 overall draft pick on JaMarcus Russell, trading for Josh McCown and signing former Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
That's put Walter's status on the team in doubt. He doesn't know if he'll be the starter, backup, third-stringer or somewhere else when the season begins.
"I'm here to play," Walter said. "That's what we're all fighting for. If that situation occurs we'll cross that bridge when it does. Until then, I'll continue to be a pro and do my job. We're all competing to play. Certainly I am as well."
After playing well with the second team in Oakland's exhibition opener against Arizona last week, Walter got the starting nod for Saturday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. Culpepper will follow Walter and McCown will come in third after starting the opener. Russell remains unsigned, giving the three veterans a chance to fight for the job.
Coach Lane Kiffin said the change in rotation is more about giving the quarterbacks a chance to work with different units in the preseason and Walter isn't putting much stock into the decision.
"I don't read into those kinds of things," Walter said. "It's a competition and in the nature of competition, I'm going to start this week. It's just the second preseason game."
Walter went 8-for-11 for 50 yards and a touchdown in last week's 27-23 victory over the Cardinals, taking advantage of an offense that emphasizes quick passes.
He threw all but two of his passes to the tight ends and running backs, helping to avoid the sacks that plagued him so much last season.
"Like I've been telling people football is a team game," Walter said. "It's never all just one player. When everything is working it looks good. That's not a surprise to me or anybody in the locker room. But apparently it is a surprise to people outside and that's fine."
That's because of the way last season went when the Raiders finished a league-worst 2-14. Oakland scored just 168 points in 2006 -- the fifth fewest in a 16-game season -- and failed to score on offensive touchdown in eight games.
Walter had both wins but lost his six other starts, struggling with turnovers and accuracy while getting little protection from a porous offensive line.
Walter threw 13 interceptions, lost nine fumbles and was sacked 46 times. He completed only 53.3 percent of his passes, threw for three touchdowns and had a passer rating of 55.8.
"Well that poor Andrew Walter last year got hit so many times, I don't think he knew where they were coming from," owner Al Davis said earlier in camp. "But what I'm saying is, he's got to come back. We have got to bring him along, and he'll get his confidence back."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press