Sean Smith told reporters Friday he was sufficiently recovered from a shoulder injury to play Sunday. But the Raiders’ staff apparently disagreed, making the cornerback inactive for their prime-time game against the Denver Broncos.
Smith injured his left shoulder early in the first quarter of last weekend’s win at Tampa Bay and was limited the past two days of practice this week. The Raiders may have wanted to be cautious with Smith, their top corner, with the upcoming bye, giving him two full weeks to heal.
With Smith out, D.J. Hayden started opposite David Amerson at corner and T.J. Carrie became the fifth defensive back in nickel packages.
It was a return to the spotlight of sorts for Hayden, who started 13 games last season but whose struggles, particularly in coverage, contributed to the Raiders signing Smith in the offseason.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
According to Pro Football Focus, opposing offenses targeted Hayden on 101 passes last season and completed 70 for 772 yards and five touchdowns. Hayden finished the year with one interception and eight passes defensed.
Coach Jack Del Rio, though, said this week he believes Hayden has made progress this year – including breaking up two passes in extended action against the Buccaneers last Sunday after Smith departed two plays into the game.
“Throughout the offseason, he’s been very purposeful, very intent on having a good year for us, and I think he has,” Del Rio said.
“I think he’s worked hard on being a cover corner for us and being a guy that’s done well on special teams and the role he’s been in and playing the slot. He’s done a nice job for us. It’s what we expect. We expect our guys to grow and develop, and I think he is.”
Other inactives – The Raiders were down two members of their starting defense against the Broncos. Defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle) was also inactive, missing a second consecutive game.
Also inactive for the Raiders were quarterback Connor Cook, cornerback Dexter McDonald, tackles Matt McCants and Vadal Alexander and tight end Ryan O’Malley. Offensive tackle Menelik Watson (calf) was active for the first time since his injury in Week 3, but replacement Austin Howard remained on the starting line.
The Broncos’ inactives were quarterback Austin Davis, receiver Cody Latimer, corners Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster, guards Connor McGovern and Billy Turner and defensive tackle Darius Kilgo.
Taking a stand – Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall was one of the first players to join 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem and continued to kneel for the first eight games of the season. Marshall, though, opted to stand for the anthem before Sunday’s game in Oakland.
Marshall wrote about his decision hours before the game in a lengthy Instagram post. Marshall wrote he initially knelt “to raise awareness for social injustice and to start a conversation,” and he is “encouraged with the many productive discussions and progress that has taken place.”
“Going forward, I will be standing for the National Anthem – not because everything is perfect, or because I’m changing my stance on things. But because of my hope for what we can become,” Marshall wrote.
Et cetera – With the possibility of a move to Las Vegas still hovering over the Raiders, the hours before kickoff Sunday saw a plane flying over the Coliseum trailing a banner that read: “Vegas: If you build it, we won’t come.” Some fans carried signs with the same message.
▪ Sebastian Janikowski’s second field goal of the first quarter was also the 400th of his career, which ranks ninth all-time.