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ALAMEDA — Here are some things that happen in the locker rooms of winning teams: Laughter. Guys dancing to profane music and razzing one another. Players lingering at their lockers a little longer than they have to, because they don’t mind being interviewed, and owning up to mistakes, because why not when so much praise is being heaped upon you?

What happens in losing locker rooms? I direct your attention to Raiders headquarters in Alameda. Wednesday, in a room mostly devoid of active players, tight end Lee Smith stepped in front of the camera lights and delivered a defiant, impassioned defense of his quarterback. I wouldn’t call it a prepared statement; Smith wasn’t reading from a sheet of paper. I would call it a premeditated statement, words he had considered for a while before they left his mouth.

“All these reports about this locker room being fractured with Derek Carr is the most obnoxious and ridiculous thing I’ve heard, ever,” Smith said. “It’s to the point where it’s comical and laughable that I’m even sitting here talking about it.”

And yet there he was — standing, actually, not sitting — refuting the unnamed sources in a story in The Athletic who painted a picture of discord in the Raiders’ locker room.

If the Raiders were 5-1, everyone in the building could have laughed off the report and moved along to red-zone plays and blitz packages. But the Raiders, as you know, are 1-5, with the losses growing more one-sided by the week. They traded their best defensive player before the season started, and on Monday they traded one of their best offensive players, wide receiver Amari Cooper. The season is not yet two months old, and the good ship Gruden II is taking on water.

And smack in the middle of all of it all, inflating his life vest, is Carr, the Raiders’ fifth-year quarterback. This offseason, the talk was about how much he would benefit from Jon Gruden’s tutelage — how Carr could turn back the clock to 2016, when he led the team to a 12-3 record as a starter, and erase the regression of 2017. Now the football world is wondering aloud whether Carr cried on the field in a loss to the Seahawks a week and a half ago, and whether he has lost respect among his teammates for such an un-NFL-like display of emotion.

You’ve heard about Weepergate, right? On the Raiders’ final offensive play in an offensive loss to Seattle in London, Carr got battered by a couple of pass rushers, hurt his left arm and made an extremely sad face as teammates helped him up. Next thing you know, we’re watching the game tape like it’s the Zapruder film in an attempt to answer the question: Did Derek Carr cry, or didn’t he?

Can you imagine Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers being accused of crying on the field? They’d roll their eyes and say “whatever” or “sure, I cry all the time,” then move along.

But Carr is in a much more fragile position. He is 5-14 in his past 19 starts, dating to the third game of the 2017 season. During that time, he has thrown 24 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions, a regrettable ratio by NFL standards. Some of those interceptions have been devastating, and Carr has looked a bit gun-shy since fracturing his fibula and a small bone in his back in separate incidents.

The Oakland quarterback is embattled. Instead of taking the high road, he and his teammates must get down there in the mud.

So there was older brother Darren Carr on Tuesday, listing Derek’s many NFL injuries on Twitter and pointing out that the QB has missed only two games in his career. And there was Derek, an hour later, responding to Darren by tweeting, in part, “Not one tear. Not one time.” And there was Gruden on Wednesday, telling reporters, “I heard that there’s a report out there that a phantom, unnamed source was curious as to some things about Derek. I think Carr is going to be fine.” And there was Carr himself Wednesday, noting that, “My trainer actually sent me some pictures of me working out making the same face, so I guess I cry when I train, too.”

And then there was Lee Smith, going out of his way to defend his friend and quarterback. It was kind of extraordinary, really. Smith is the Raiders’ union rep. His word carries some weight. And in extolling Carr’s virtues to the press, he was also telling teammates to knock off the anonymous criticism.

“The attacking of our strongest leader and the strongest man in our locker room is absolute horse(bleep),” Smith said at one point.

Clearly, Derek Carr has a problem. It’s not whether he shed a tear after getting sacked, because honestly, who cares about that? And it’s not because Carr, a patriotic white Christian, is at odds with some of his African-American teammates (a rumor dredged up Tuesday by the talking heads on FS1’s “Speak for Yourself”), because that scenario never made much sense to anyone who has seen Carr interact with his linemen.

Carr’s problem is that his teammates were losing confidence in him even before the final drive of the Seattle game. Just as he has been losing confidence in them. Carr’s passing pocket isn’t as clean as it was in the 2016 heyday, and he now plays as if he’s under pressure even when no pressure exists. He has often looked jittery this season. His footwork gets messy, and sometimes he throws the ball to the defense. He has failed to spot some open receivers.

So of course Carr’s teammates have begun to wonder if he’s really the man to lead them. And they probably buy into reports that the quarterback could be the next one to get traded. Gruden dispelled the notion Wednesday, saying, “I don’t see us making any more trades. Certainly, I don’t see us trading our quarterback.” Just as he had claimed the Raiders weren’t trying to trade Cooper, days before they shipped him to Dallas.

The thing is, all of this big-brotherly love for Carr isn’t doing him any favors. When his brother, or his tight end, or his coach goes to bat for him, Carr seems like a vulnerable kid who can’t fight his own fights. In reality, he has always done a pretty good job of withstanding the heat of an interview when things aren’t going well. Let him speak for himself now, as the darker corners of social media are calling him a crybaby. Better yet, let him laugh off the accusations and decline to respond.

Imagine the trash talk Carr is going to hear every time he’s sacked over the next few weeks. Imagine the reaction of Raiders who were already on the fence about him. Carr hasn’t lost the locker room, but he still could.

You really want to help Derek Carr? Stop trading all of his best teammates.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-529-5218 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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