Ben Margot / The Associated Press

Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch stays on the ground in the first quarter Sunday because of what the team said was an injured ankle. He did not return.

Injury forces safety shifts

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013 - 5:19 pm

ALAMEDA – The Raiders were resigned Monday to moving forward without strong safety Tyvon Branch, looking to Charles Woodson, Usama Young and Brandian Ross to pick up the slack after the loss of their highest-paid player.

Branch left Sunday's 19-9 win over Jacksonville in the first quarter with what the team said was an injured ankle. Coach Dennis Allen declined to confirm an ESPN report that Branch had a fractured fibula, saying, "He's probably going to miss some time. How much that time is, I don't know."

Allen called the injury "significant" after Sunday's game. He used the same term when left tackle Jared Veldheer suffered a torn triceps in training camp that required surgery.

"We're going to be missing a good player," Woodson said. "It's unfortunate it goes down like this, and it just means somebody is going to have to step up."

With the Raiders having already used the short-term injured reserve designation for Veldheer, Branch will be carried on the 53-man roster until he's healthy unless they determine he needs to go on injured reserve for the season.

Branch, who signed a four-year, $26.5 million extension last year and is collecting $9.5 million this season in a restructured deal, is known for his work ethic and explosive, physical style.

The Raiders did fine minus Branch, with Young getting 1 1/2 sacks and Ross recording one.

While Ross is listed as the backup strong safety to Branch and Young the No. 2 free safety behind Woodson, Allen said he wasn't sure which player would start in Branch's place and wasn't really sure if it matters.

"If Ty's out for a while, we've got guys we feel can step up and make plays, whether it's strong safety or free safety," Allen said. "I look at those as interchangeable positions, and they really need to have the flexibility to do different things defensively."

Young is used to moving around.

"I've played free, I've played strong, I've played nickel, I've played corner," Young said. "Here as a safety, you're a safety. We mix it up so much, with guys in the box or back in space, you never know where you're going to be."

Allen and Woodson said the Raiders believe they won't have to modify their strategy to account for Branch's absence when they visit Denver next Monday.

"I believe we have smart players and guys that can go in and know what's expected of them," Woodson said. "We won't have to alter our game plan at all. We look forward to going down there with our full arsenal of plays and just have to stick different guys in there to implement it, and we're comfortable with that."

Notes – Guard Lucas Nix was scheduled for an MRI on his injured ankle, and his status for the Denver game was not known.

• Allen said kicker Sebastian Janikowski, whose miss from 35 yards Sunday ended a streak of 50 consecutive field goals from 40 yards and closer, is still working on gaining confidence with his new holder, punter Marquette King.

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