Injuries to linemen continue to mount

Published: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 - 7:20 am

NAPA – Second-round pick Menelik Watson's first practice of training camp lasted less than 30 minutes Wednesday before the Raiders' offensive lineman left the field after re-injuring a calf muscle in his left leg.

Watson, the 42nd overall pick and projected backup to right tackle Khalif Barnes, had been on the non-football injury list since the beginning of camp after injuring his calf in mid-July.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle jogged to the practice field and took part in two offensive linemen drills before aggravating his injury. Watson angrily walked off the field with a trainer, punched a wooden bench near the team's weight room and let out a scream before going into the locker room.

A few minutes later, Watson sat on the ground in the shade outside a door of the locker room, his head down in obvious disappointment.

"This is not the way I planned on my first training camp; I've not even took a snap yet," Watson said. "It's very frustrating, especially after the spring, making good strides in the spring. I wanted to get out there and get on the field."

Watson insisted he had not hurried back after missing the first 10 practices.

"I was aware of the situation and that I had to be careful," Watson said. "I talked about it with the training staff, that we were going to take it slow. You get out there and you get your juices flowing and you're trying to push it … and it happened."

Defensive tackle Pat Sims, also making his first appearance of camp after being taken off the physically unable to perform list, didn't last much longer. He sustained an apparent hamstring injury during blocking drills and missed the rest of practice.

Wide receiver Jacoby Ford also left practice, because of an undisclosed injury, and did not talk to reporters.

Flynn set for prime time – Matt Flynn knows about doubters. When he makes his debut as the Raiders' starting quarterback Friday, the skeptics will be out in force, in the press box and the stands.

But before he ever got a chance to feel his own NFL scrutiny, Flynn got to witness a teammate deal with it on a much larger scale in Green Bay. When the rookie seventh-round pick arrived in 2008, Brett Favre was waffling on his decision to retire.

That left prospective starter Aaron Rodgers in the middle of a maelstrom. Favre was a three-time MVP and franchise icon, and the team's decision to move ahead with Rodgers was unpopular.

"What Aaron went through was a circus," Flynn recalled. "There were all the questions from the media, people heckling him in the crowd. I don't think anybody else could have handled it any better than he did.

"I spent eight or nine hours a day with him, and you'd never have known what he was going through. There was never any sign of frustration."

Rodgers, who went on to win Super Bowl XLV and an MVP award, is a central figure to Flynn's story. When Flynn gracefully handled losing the starting job to rookie Russell Wilson last season in Seattle, where Flynn signed as a free agent, it was a maturity learned from watching his friend.

"He's handled himself well in some tough situations," Rodgers said from Green Bay. "He was a backup who knew he could play, got better, improved his skill set, learned how to prepare and did really well when he got the opportunity to play in a couple of games.

"It was a tough situation in Seattle, but he's got an opportunity in Oakland to do something great. I'm really proud of him."

It hasn't taken Flynn long to establish himself as the clear No. 1 in training camp. The current backup, Terrelle Pryor, is still a work in progress. Meanwhile, fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson has struggled mightily.

But the doubters remain. The Raiders' run of 10 consecutive non-winning seasons and Flynn's two-game body of work as an NFL starter led ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski to list Flynn 32nd among NFL quarterbacks.

The Oakland Tribune contributed to this report.

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