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Higgins gets another chance to shine

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It’s been a long year for the Raiders most productive wide receiver a year ago.

But it’s worth noting that Johnnie Lee Higgins will be back in the starting lineup as the Raiders enter the last quarter of the season, right about the same time he compiled most of his receiving statistics a year ago. Rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey missed pracitce Friday for the third straight day, is listed as doubtful and very unlikely to play.

Higgins had only eight catches at this point last season. After catching four passes for a season-high 63 yards against Pittsburgh, he currently has 10 (one more than Heyward-Bey).

In the last four games in 2008, Higgins caught 14 passes for 196 yards and three of his four receiving touchdowns, a jumping off point most people figured would carry over into an even better 2009.

Instead, Higgins took a ferocious shot from San Diego safety Eric Weddle in Week 1, seemed affected by it for weeks, and found himself getting much less playing time than Heyward-Bey and fourth-round selection Louis Murphy.

“Yeah, it was rough. You know me, I’m a fighter, I just hate sitting back and watching, I want to be out there, but I just do as I’m told,” Higgins said Friday. “I go out there and when my number is called, I go out there and I perform. Complaining won’t get you anywhere. When it’s my time to shine, I go out there and try and do it.”

Some news and notes from the Raiders Friday practice:

— The Raiders have not yet put left guard Robert Gallery on injured reserve, but are expected to do so later today or Saturday. Practice guard-center Roy Schuening is hopeful of being promoted to the 53-man roster but is taking nothing for granted until asked to come in and sign a contract.

Schuening would also be a backup center. Starting center Samson Satele was limited in practice and listed as questionable, but is expected to start, with Chris Morris taking Gallery’s spot at left guard.

If Satele were to be re-injured, Morris would take over at center and Langston Walker at left guard _ presumably leaving the Raiders without a center unless Schuening is on the roster. Schuening said he’s been taking turns at center all season and is proficient with the shotgun snap.

“I only had one bad one all week,” he said.

— Defensive end Greg Ellis pracitced for the first time this week, and like Satele, was listed as questionable.

— Washington running back Quinton Ganther, recently elevated to starting running back ahead of Rock Cartwright (with Clinton Portis injured and out for the season), played youth football in Oakland with Kirk Morrison.

“He’s a friend of mine. He’s from here in the Bay area. Played Pop Warner against him,” Morrison said. “He went to Mountain West Conference, went to Utah. I know a lot about him so we follow each other’s careers and we’re real good friends. Had to help him out with tickets.”

While it’s somewhat comforting that Portis is out and the Redskins have worked their way down the depth chart at running back, the Raiders gave up more than 100 yards to the Jets’ Shonn Greene, the Chiefs Jamaal Charles and the Bengals’ Bernard Scott, none of whom opened the season as starters. Greene was in fact the Jets’ third-string back behind Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.

“He’s a cutback runner, a slasher and very explosive,” Cable said of Ganther.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer