By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 at 8:11 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Wednesday’s spirited practice placed a smile on coach Hue Jackson’s face, which is saying something given the news that starting wide receiver Louis Murphy and starting cornerback Chris Johnson underwent surgery, backup safety Mike Mitchell’s return is uncertain and projected starting center Samson Satele got hurt today.
“My thing is, next man up,” Jackson said. “Whoever the next guy is, step up and let’s play. Again, as you guys know, I don’t bat an eye at those things when a guy goes down or a guy’s out of here. I don’t like it for our players, but you can’t worry about that. I can’t worry about it. I’ve got to coach the guys that are here, the next guy’s got to step and play like a Raider.”
Murphy’s injury is the most pressing, given he led all Raiders wide receivers in receptions and yards last season, and he tied for the team lead in touchdowns. Also, the Raiders already are without the services of top recievers Jacoby Ford and Chaz Schilens.
Fortunately for the Raiders, veteran Derek Hagan, rookie Denarius Moore and roster hopefuls Nick Miller and Shaun Bodiford are playing well during camp, so there’s viable options until Murphy returns.
Jackson said Murphy won’t be back for the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the Denver Broncos. Murphy said Saturday that he has been bothered by hamstring and groin issues.
Ford and Schilens are expected back soon, Ford from a broken left hand, Schilens from the right leg injury he suffered against the Arizona Cardinals last Thursday night.
“Chaz is getting close,” Jackson said. “He’s doing really good.”
Then again, Jackson said several times that Murphy was “close.”
*Johnson left midway through practice Sunday. Jackson said afterward that Johnson was “fine.”
“No, no, no, he’s not hurt,” Jackson said. “It was just, again, it was a coach’s decision. I get to make those decisions, take guys off, give them a little time and see where they are. We’ve been running them pretty good. As you see, we throw the ball down the field here, and our corners have to cover but, no, he’s fine.”
Jackson said Monday that Johnson didn’t practice because he’s a member of the so-called Plus-30 Club, which entitles players who are 30 or older to a day off every now and then.
On Wednesday, Johnson went from fine to in need of a “procedure.” He won’t play against the 49ers on Saturday is as far as Jackson would go.
“Chris will be back here very shortly and soon,” Jackson said, ”and we’ll get him back into uniform and get him playing. I’m not going to go into detail exactly what it is, but he did, we had to have some things cleaned up with him, for him, and he’ll be back and on the mend and ready to play football.”
*Johnson’s absence gives rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke a window of opportunity to show what he can do. He showed signs of maturing in practice Wednesday.
“I watched DeMarcus Van Dyke do some things today that I haven’t seen,” Jackson said. “Get after guys on the sidelines and push them out of bounds, and hit ‘em.”
Veteran free safety Michael Huff said young players such as Van Dyke just need an opportunity and that people need to realize that there isn’t anyone on the roster, or elsewhere, who can replace Nnamdi Asomugha.
“It will be fine,” Huff said. “Obviously, they’re going to go through their growing pains. We’ve had Nnam here forever, so everybody that comes in expects people to shut down the field like Nnam does. Nobody is going to do that. So, you got to be patient, let the young guys grow up a little bit.”
Van Dyke isn’t shying away from the challenge at hand.
“Yeah, it’s an opportunity to show out, to show the team that I can play,” Van Dyke said. “And this is an opportunity to show coach Hue that I’m ready to play.”
*Jackson said Satele’s injury isn’t anything serious. He called it “a little tweak there, a nick.” Just the same, he was taken to a nearby hospital for tests to determine the extent.
The nature of Satele’s injury is unknown because it happened without being obvious. He was at center one play, being led from the field the next.
“Nothing major,” Jackson said. DIdn’t get rolled on our nothing. Just started feeling a little discomfort and we decided to get him out. Just didn’t feel some strength in some areas. He’s OK. I really believe he’s OK, and he’ll be fine.”
Stefen Wisniewski replaced Satele at center after beginning the day at left guard. Daniel Loper received added playing time at left guard upon Satele’s departure.
*Second-year offensive lineman Bruce Campbell looked pretty good in practice, especially in a one-on-one pass protection drill agaisnt defensive end Lamaar Houston.
His day took a turn for the worse when he got too high with his hands while blocking defensive tackle Derrick Hill in the same drill. Campbell hurt his right thumb on the play and needed trainers to tape it up.
Campbell spent most of his time Wednesday at guard.
*Penalties were a major issue in practice Wednesday. Nothing to be alarmed about, Jackson said.
There’s a reason for the increased number of penalties in practice, he added.
“We can’t play winning football that way and our team understands that,” Jackson said. “What’s happenings is they’re getting three different quarterbacks, three different languages, they’re hearing different things … and it’s a tribute to the offense, the quarterbacks have done a great job with their cadence, of mixing it up. So, it can be tough on a defense at times.”
*Jackson said he is pleased with where his team stands at the conclusion of three weeks of training camp. At the same time, he admitted that his team is far from where it needs to be for the regular-season opener.
“Every coach around the league is trying to get better,” Jackson said. “I don’t think anybody’s happy where they are right now. We’ve had these guys for what, three weeks? I don’t know too many coaches who are going ‘hurray, we’re ready to go.’ We don’t play until the 12th. …
“You have to make sure that the process is ongoing so that you hit the season running. That’s what this is all about. This is where this is headed. When I talk to our football team, we have to get ready to play any opponent we play but we all understand that we have to hit the ground running come the 12th of September.”
*Jackson is serious when he says he wants to win every time he steps on the field, even if it’s an exhibition game.
He said he would take playing poorly in a win over playing well in a loss any day.
“I always like to win,” Jackson said. “Last week was hard for me. It took me more than 48 hours to let that one go, but that’s OK. I want to win but I also want our team to play well.”
*It’s logical for players to feel as if their chances of making the 53-man roster lie in how they perform in the four exhibition games.
Jackson has made it known that everything is taken into account when it comes time to formulating the opening-day roster.
“I keep telling guys, regardless of whether you’re on the first team, the second team, it doesn’t matter,” Jackson said. “You got to go. You’ve got to put something on video tape, something us coaches can take in order to evaluate you, and when you get your opportunity you’ve got to make the most of it, and our players are trying to do that.”
*It should come as no surprise by now that the catch of the day was turned in by Denarius Moore.
This time, Moore broke off an out-and-up route when he saw the pass was behind him, planted himself and made a diving catch toward the sideline and the line of scrimmage. The play didn’t net many yards, but it elicited plenty of oohs and aahs.
*Running back Darren McFaddena and Ford spent part of practice running 100-yard sprints while their teammates practiced nearby.
Offensive lineman Stephon Heyer (triceps), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), safety Zac Etheridge (knee) and running back Taiwan Jones (undisclosed) were among those who missed practice.
*Linebacker Bruce Davis II participated at full strength for the first time since his return Monday. He missed significant time with an undisclosed injury.
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl