Already entering the postseason with a rookie quarterback yet to make his first NFL start, the Raiders also are unsure about the status of his primary blind-side protector.
Left tackle Donald Penn has not practiced this week after sustaining a left knee injury Sunday in the Raiders’ loss at Denver. The loss erased the Raiders’ chances at a first-round bye, giving Penn a short recovery window before Saturday’s AFC wild-card game.
“He didn’t go again today,” coach Jack Del Rio said after Thursday’s practice, the team’s last before flying to Houston. “So we’ll see how he finishes the week.”
Penn has started 155 consecutive games, second-most among active offensive linemen, and made his lone career postseason appearance in 2007 with Tampa Bay, so he surely is motivated to return.
But his absence Thursday caused the Raiders to adjust. In position drills, Menelik Watson shifted from right to left tackle with Austin Howard filling in at right tackle. In Sunday’s game, Vadal Alexander entered at right tackle after Penn was injured, and Watson shifted over.
“Definitely some mixing and matching going on,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “This time of year, a lot of people are banged up. Going to put our healthiest five bodies out there and put them in a good place where they can work cohesively and we get a good result.”
Watson opened the season as the Raiders’ starting right tackle before battling injuries and regained the job for the final two games. Howard started 10 games at right tackle but was inactive the last two weeks.
Left guard Kelechi Osemele also suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s loss but has practiced this week, though in a limited capacity.
Quarterback Derek Carr (broken leg) and safety Nate Allen (concussion) were the only other players who did not practice Thursday. The Raiders’ defense may be without Allen on Saturday but should regain safety Karl Joseph (toe), who was limited in practice Thursday, and tackle Stacy McGee (groin), a full participant.
Also limited Thursday were wide receivers Amari Cooper (shoulder), Michael Crabtree (ankle) and Andre Holmes (shoulder), quarterback Matt McGloin (non-throwing shoulder) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring).
Big stage – Earlier this season, Del Rio held a “Sunday Night Football” appearance up as a benchmark of the Raiders’ progress the past two seasons. He was less effusive Thursday about the franchise’s first playoff game in 14 years.
“We have not talked about anything special about the first playoff game thus far,” Del Rio said. “It’s really in my experience … that the hype surrounding it changes, but the game itself remains a game. We’ll be ready to play as long as we think of it that way.”
Of the Raiders’ 53-man roster, only 13 players have playoff experience – and only one, Sebastian Janikowski, with Oakland. Del Rio said that’s not a concern.
“Younger guys played very well in games throughout the year for us,” he said. “We just want them to be themselves and do their own thing, and do like they’ve done all year.”