ALAMEDA Lost in terms of a national scope amid a 4-10 season and the remarkable comebacks of players such as Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson is the tale of Raiders defensive end Andre Carter.
Carter, 33, had surgery for a torn quadriceps late last season after being named to the Pro Bowl with the New England Patriots. The injury could have been a career-ender, but there was Carter pressuring Brady Quinn last week against Kansas City, getting his first sack of the season and playing 32 of 44 defensive snaps.
He has improved steadily since signing Sept. 26 and is getting some gratifying feedback during the postgame handshakes from opponents who are impressed.
"To still be playing after 12 years in this business is a blessing," Carter said. "To get compliments from your peers is nice. You're doing something special when people mention your play."
Unlike knee surgeries where the rehabilitation begins immediately, Carter's quadriceps required eight months of immobilization. Then came the arduous process of stretching the repaired muscle back out.
"I was going through so much excruciating pain, fighting the atrophy, just being on the table and having a guy force your leg to be put in a position it didn't want to go," Carter said. "I was hooting, hollering and crying."
Signed for one season, Carter would like to return to the Raiders, and both coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver have lauded the way he mentors young linemen.
Having started his career as a first-round pick with the 49ers in 2001, Carter would like to end it on the other side of the bay.
"It's a great organization," Carter said. "Granted, the record is not how we wanted to be, but I just think we're headed in the right direction. We've got great players and great coaches. This is where it all started for me, so it all comes full circle."
Pryor will play Terrelle Pryor has been playing a key role this week by impersonating Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in practice.
Pryor could have an even higher-profile role Sunday. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said Pryor will get on the field in specialty packages for the Raiders.
Pryor made his season debut last week, handing the ball off twice and throwing one incomplete pass. The next step is using him in specific situations that can take advantage of his athleticism at quarterback.
"You'll see him a little bit on third downs, you'll see him maybe in the red zone, try to create a different look for the defense to contend with," Knapp said. "It won't be so much the structure of last week, where he had a series, which we thought was fair to him. We're going to try to use some of his athletic ability this week."
Injury report Defensive tackle Richard Seymour missed practice because of a hamstring strain, making it likely he'll miss his seventh straight game Sunday. Seymour's contract voids following the season, making him a free agent.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch remains out because of an ankle injury, but he could practice today and is likely to play against the Panthers.