Tuesday, the Raiders cut defensive tackle Jay Alford in order to pick up linebacker Bruce Davis. While doing so, they were able to strengthen their injured linebacking corps, but the net effect is that they now only have three defensive tackles — two of which have already struggled through injuries during the young season.
The dearth of talent along the defensive line is mainly due to the Raiders finding out that John Henderson has a stress fracture in his right foot. The prognosis on Henderson’s return? “Well, it can be anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks,” said Tom Cable when asked of his defensive tackle’s return.
While Henderson has already been out for a couple of weeks, the clock for his return didn’t start until Henderson finally found out what the injury was — they originally were treating a sore foot. So when did this happen? “…the other day.“
What makes it such a big loss is that both Richard Seymour (hamstring) and Desmond Bryant (elbow) have already returned recently from their own injuries, and football injuries are rarely fully recovered from prior to returning to the field. Only Tommy Kelly has avoided the injury bug so far this season. So when asked who his backup defensive tackles were besides Bryant, Cable declared, “That’s it,” during his daily press briefing.
Cable agrees that this is a big loss for the team. “I think it’s big. John was playing well and the last time really that he played was St. Louis, but we’ve had good play out of him so obviously that’ a loss. But we’ll overcome it. We’re healthier, in terms of Desmond Bryant and all that, so we’re kind of getting a guy back. Losing one, but getting one back.”
One player the Raiders could get back by this Sunday is offensive guard Robert Gallery. Cable said that the former first-round pick felt good after his workout Wednesday and if he still felt better Thursday morning, they’d, “start working,” with a “chance” of playing this weekend.
Other news on the Raiders’ non-practice/injury front from Cable:
Schilens did not practice. Gallery did not practice. Darren McFadden did not practice. Zach Miller was limited. Gradkowski, limited. Ricky Brown, limited. Goerthel did not practice. Quentin Groves did not. Thomas Howard did not. John Henderson has a stress fracture in his foot. Hiram Eugene practiced full. Chris Johnson was full. Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware did not practice. Rolando McClain is not here. He’s had a loss in his family so he’s back home tending to that.
Cable said that Wednesday’s practice went well even with the injuries. Because of those absences, the Raiders changed it up a little by starting with a walk-thru and shortening the practice part in order to, “take care of their bodies a little bit.”
It’s not likely that the NFL’s second-leading rusher, Darren McFadden, will get any playing time this Sunday. While Cable said that the injury wasn’t as bad as his rusher’s training camp hamstring pull, he wasn’t sure when McFadden would be ready to get back on the field — other than saying, “We expect the turnaround to be shorter, how much, we’ll see.”
With injuries to linebackers Groves and Howard, Cable confirmed that Trevor Scott is back at weak-side linebacker. With Scott leaving the right defensive end spot, Matt Shaughnessy will fill in on the line. Cable said that Groves is looking, ” very questionable,” and that there’s a good chance he won’t play this Sunday. “He’s very questionable right now,” said Cable of Groves. “In another 24 hours, we’ll see. Hamstrings are hamstrings. Sometimes a week, maybe two. Sometimes four weeks.”
The biggest story for the Raiders coming into the weekend will be the 13 straight losses to the Chargers. Players in the locker room expressed a range of reactions to the streak from anger to apathy. Cable is more on the angry side of things when it comes to the streak.
Well, I’ve been around long enough to say I’m sick of it. I’m one of those that knows the importance of the game, knows the importance of the divisional game. What’s gone on here, this being year four for me with the Raiders, I mean, we were close twice last year but close doesn’t work, but I think at some point, if you’re going to knock off the champ, and they’re the champ, and have been for awhile, then you’ve got to beat ‘em.
Starting right tackle Langston Walker isn’t worried about any streaks. “Streak and, ‘When’s the last time you did this?’ It doesn’t matter,” said the veteran lineman who is one of the few Raiders who was a Raider when the team was on the winning side of such a streak with the Chargers. “Every game is it’s own. That’s how you have to go out there and play it. You start worrying about the past, you’re going to screw up.”
The man Walker is charged with protecting, Bruce Gradkowski, feels the same way about the streak, saying, “…the past is done with.” This may be why he doesn’t believe the Raiders are at a disadvantage because of it. “The past gives them no edge,” said Gradkowski to reporters in the locker room before practice Wednesday.
“They’re coming into our place. It’s now. It’s this year, and every game’s its own game,” the Raiders’ starting quarterback continued. “So you have to come out each and every Sunday and play. That’s why they play the games. So we’re excited for that. We’re excited for this opportunity. All we can do is keep working hard and continue to get better.”
With so little time prior to Sunday’s game, and facing the top defense in the NFL in the Chargers, Gradkowski understands that moving the ball won’t come easy. “This is a big week. Our first division game and against a great defense. So what more can you ask for? We’re going to come in, work hard this week and be ready to go.”
One Raider that seems to always be ready to go is Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler. Part of that is his determination to outdo the opposing punter — this week it will be Mike Scifres. Asked if he takes a lot of pride in beating his competition, Lechler responded, “There is, and I’m proud of our punt team. We’ve got the highest net in the league, but you can throw all that stuff out when you play the Chargers.”
While he wants to be the best punter on the field every Sunday, it’s a friendly competition with San Diego’s big-legged punter. “Me and Mike, we battle every year when we play each other and it’s one of those deals, it’s a game within a game, and I consider Mike having one of the strongest legs in this game, and any time I can compete against him, on the same field, same day, it’s a lot of fun for me and him as well. I’ll talk to him two or three times before we play and it’s one of those deals, we have a great friendship, but it’s a great rivalry too.”
The rivalry is probably not as great as the one between the two teams.