By Steve Corkran
Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Michael Bush is no stranger to biding his time, picking up a few carries here and there and playing the good soldier. His opportunities to start are few and far between, yet’s he always seems ready when called upon.
That figures to be the case Sunday, when the Raiders host the Denver Broncos at the Coliseum and with lead back Darren McFadden hobbled by a sprained right foot.
As always, Bush says he is eager to make the most of a rare opportunity to step into the spotlight as the Raiders featured back.
“That’s just a part of it,” Bush said. “It’s not the first time I have been down this road, but it’s a good thing. It’s bad that Darren got hurt, and I wish that he was out there playing with us, but the coach believes in me and I just have to keep the offense rolling.”
Bush, like any other running back, would love to get more action during games. At the same time, he understands his role and does whatever is asked of him without being a divisive force.
“He’s been very positive,” coach Hue Jackson said. “That’s just Michael. He understands that he plays behind Darren, and he respects Darren and Darren’s ability. He respects his own ability. Would he like to have more chances? Yeah. But he understands it’s a long season, sometimes things happen and he’s going to get his shot. And when he does, he’s got to nail it. And if this is this week, then he’ll nail it because he’s a good player, a really good player.”
Bush and Taiwan Jones have been getting all the reps in practice the past two weeks. Jackson isn’t ruling out McFadden playing.
However, with a game against the San Diego Chargers four days after the Broncos game, the smart money says that Jackson holds out McFadden and entrusts the running attack to Bush and Jones.
Past history shows the offense is in good hands with Bush as the lead back. He has 600 yards on 134 carries (4.5-yard average) and four touchdowns in 10 career starts.
Jackson said he is bolstered by the fact Bush rushed for 99 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in relief of McFadden in Oakland’s most-recent game. He also is thankful for Bush’s professional approach to accepting his complementary role.
“He’s in a tough spot,” Jackson said. “He plays behind arguably in my opinion one of the best running backs in this league. But Bush is a really, really good player himself. It’s good when you have two of them. In case one can’t go, you have one you can lean on.”
PENALTIES STILL AN ISSUE
The depth of the penalties problems for the Raiders this season is underscored by the fact that they retained their lead in penalties (69) and yards penalized (600) despite not playing last Sunday.
The Panthers cut into the lead in both categories, yet they still have some work to do if they hope to catch a Raiders that has led in both stats all season. The Panthers are at 65 and 560, respectively.
HOUSHMANDZADEH A YOUNG 34
Raiders wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh turned 34 in September. That’s old for a receiver in the NFL, and certainly older than the five other wide receivers on the Raiders 53-man roster.
Yet, Houshmandzadeh makes a compelling case for not being lumped in with other players his age.
“This is what I tell people all the time,” Houshmandzadeh said. “I played one year of high school football. I played three years of college. I didn’t play my first three years in the NFL. I’ve never been hurt. I can play for a while. That’s just being honest. I don’t feel sore. I can run. I just feel good. I feel better now, and it could be because I wasn’t playing all these weeks when other guys were, but I feel good.
“People look at age and this and that, look at the body and the injuries and playing time. I haven’t played a lot in my career. I sat on the bench for three years.”
Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders was with Houshmandzadeh in Baltimore last season. He said Houshmandzadeh brings a wealth of experience and versatility to the Raiders offense, as well as providin some comfort to quarterback Carson Palmer.
Houshmandzadeh is known for being effective in the slot, working the middle of the field and sacrificing his body for the sake of a catch.
“He’s someone that in the short-range area catches the ball extremely well, knows how to ward off defenders with his body and knows how to get in the right place,” Saunders said. “And he does it very, very well. So, when you have a receiver like that in your arsenal of people, it’s a real comfort level for the quarterback.
PRYOR IN PALMER’S EAR
Rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor knows an opportunity when he sees one. Hence, he has latched on to Palmer in hopes he can expedite the growth process in terms of being a productive NFL quarterback.
“I’m usually just with Carson, really,” Pryor said. “That’s the only person … We’re lifting partners and we meet every day in the morning when we’re off. We’re in the film room together. So, mostly everything he does, I’m right there with him.”
Throughout his high school and college career, Pryor pretty much was the man and didn’t have to wait around or learn under a veteran. He even started games his freshman year at Ohio State. Therefore, he is in uncharted territory.
“I didn’t really get a lot of help (in college),” Pryor said of the older quarterbacks on the roster at the time. “I’m glad it’s happening because I can learn a little bit. I came in late, so I can develop a little more and learn from a guy that’s been doing it for 10 years.”
Pryor was selected in the supplemental draft in late August and spent about a week with the Raiders before his five-game suspension kicked in. He rejoined the Raiders in Week 6 and has been playing catch up ever since.
JACKSON THANKFUL FOR SUPPORT
The Raiders sold out Sunday’s game in advance of the league-mandated deadline. That extends their streak to five, which is the longest such streak since they sold out eight straight games bridging the 2007 and ’08 seasons. The Raiders last sold out the first five games of a season in 2006, when they went 2-14.
Jackson said the support is a testament to the loyalty of Raiders fans and their buying in to what he is selling in his first year as the head coach.
“It means that these fans are truly believing in what we’re doing,” Jackson said. “I just thank the city, I thank the organization, I thank everybody for continuing to support this team. I hope that we can as we continue to move on to Chicago and Detroit and the other teams that we play, those games are just as important, too.
“I hope our fans will keep coming out, supporting us. We know we have to put a better product on the field. That’s what we plan on doing.”
Jackson said he and the players are well aware of the difference a sold-out crowd makes.
“Our fans let us know,” Jackson said. “They let us know when it’s going good and they let us know when it’s going bad. We recognize that, and they have a right to. They’ve done a great job supporting us, and we have to do a great job of giving back by the way we play.”
JANIKOWSKI ON THE MEND
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski still isn’t able to kick as a result of the hamstring injury he suffered a few weeks ago. He has two days to show that he is able to kick at or near full strength before Jackson decides whether to sign a replacement for the Broncos game.
Jackson said Janikowski will kick either Friday or Saturday in an attempt to gauge whether his sore hamstring is game-ready. If he passes the test, great. If not, Jackson will tab one of several kickers he has on speed dial.
“He has to be able to demonstrate that he can do his job,” Jackson said. “Like I said, he’s much closer than what he’s been. I feel very comfortable that there’s a good chance that that’s going to happen but, still, I thought there was going to be a good chance last time.”
Against the Chiefs, Jackson turned to Dave Rayner. As it turned out, Rayner’s efforts consisted of one kick-off in a 28-0 loss. He was waived two days after he was signed.
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