As it turns out, middle linebacker Rolando McClain had a good reason for missing practice today: He suffered a concussion against the Miami Dolphins.
McClain said the scariest part of his injury is, he doesn’t know when it happened Sunday.
“It was more in the game where I felt like, ‘Well, dang, I don’t feel like myself,’ ” McClain said. “But, I don’t know, it’s one of the more scary injuries. With an ankle, you know what’s wrong. But when it’s in your head, you don’t know.”
McClain played the bulk of the game. Raiders coach Dennis Allen said it became apparent after the game.
“It was something we thought might have been the case after the game,” Allen said. “But it didn’t seem like it was a major one. Seemed like a minor deal, and so, it’s kind of a precautionary deal that we’re going through the whole process to make sure he’s fine.”
McClain said this is the first time he has suffered a concussion that he is aware of, either in college of his three years in the NFL. Therefore, he is heeding the advice of team doctors.
He won’t be allowed to play this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers unless he passes a series of league-mandated tests. McClain said he is hopeful of making a speedy recovery and playing Sunday.
“That’s the plan,” McClain said. “Obviously, you don’t want to rush anything with the head, but it is what it is. I’m just doing whatever it is I can do to get back. We’ll see.”
Long-snapper Jon Condo suffered a concussion in Oakland’s regular-season opener. He passed the tests four days later and returned in time to play against the Dolphins.
If McClain isn’t able to play, Travis Goethel is the likely candidate to start in the middle.
— Cornerback Shawntae Spencer’s right foot remains in a protective boot, and he still is in need of crutches to get around.
Allen said Spencer underwent an MRI to determine the extent of the damage from an injury Spencer suffered against the Dolphins.
“We still really don’t have an answer to that,” Allen said, when asked if he knew how long Spencer would be out. “He didn’t practice today, so we’re going to evaluate him as we go throughout the week and see where he’s at.”
Same goes for right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes, who suffered a groin injury against the Dolphins and missed most of the game.
Willie Smith is in line to start at right offensive tackle if Barnes can’t play.
— There’s a rule of thumb on punt returns that, a returner lines up at his own 10-yard line on punts with a chance of reaching the end zone and lets go anything that is going over his head.
Phillip Adams fielded one punt at his own 2-yard line and two at his own 7-yard line against the Dolphins. Where does Allen stand on the issue?
“That’s the general rule,” Allen said. “Line up on the 10 and if it goes over your head, you let it go. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about. We’ve got to make good decisions and smart decisions. That will help us as far as the field position game goes.”
— Stefen Wisniewski stayed after practice to work on his long-snapping. He now is listed as the backup to Condo on the Raiders depth chart.
For the record, Wisniewski looked much more capable snapping the ball than Goethel did in practice a week ago.
— The old regime informed free safety Michael Huff late last season that he was being converted to cornerback. That went out the window once coach Hue Jackson got fired shortly after the season ended.
Now, with both starting cornerbacks injured, Huff finds himself back in the mix at cornerback. He took some reps there in practice today.
Allen said Huff has what it takes to make the transition, whereas not all safeties do.
“Speed and athleticism; that’s the biggest thing,” Allen said of the key to making the switch. “You’ve got to be able to run and play out there on the edge, and he can certainly do that.”
Huff was unavailable for comment.
Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson are the projected starters for now, with Spencer and Ron Bartell sidelined with injuries. Lee said Huff has what it takes to succeed if called upon.
“Huff is an all-around guy,” Lee said. “He’s a good player. He can do whatever out there on the field. He’s going to do his job. That’s Huff.”
— The Raiders aren’t the only team struggling with their rushing attack the first two games. The Steelers averaged only 2.6 yards rushing in games against the Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
It doesn’t help that they are without lead back Rashard Mendenhall, of course. But, sometimes it just takes time to get things going, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
“I just think the early portions of the year, particularly when you’re working with new systems of offensive football, that it takes some time to get some cohesion,” Tomlin said. “But, again, I’m just speaking from my perspective and maybe our experiences.”
Tomlin said he isn’t in position to pass judgment on why the Raiders have struggled so much in the run game. The Raiders averaged 2.0 yards a carry their first two games.
— Through it all, the Raiders remain steadfast in their belief that it’s only a matter of time before things click in the run game.
“You don’t let it frustrate you,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “The saving grace is, you know McFadden is back there. He’s one arm tackle away from breaking off a 40-, 50-yarder. He’s got that potential, he’s got that ability, he’s done it before. We’re going to stick with it. We’re not frustrated.
“We’re disappointed in ourselves for not executing it better but we’re not going to let it frustrate us, we’re not going to let it deter it from our goal. Our goal is going to be to run the ball on people, and we’re going to do that. It hasn’t worked the first two games, but we’re not going to change anything we’re doing.”
McFadden said “it’s a shock to me” when he looks at the stat sheet and sees that he has gained only 54 yards on 26 carries through two games.
Yet, as Palmer said, McFadden isn’t frustrated by the lack of results so far. By comparison, McFadden had 222 yards rushing through two games last season.
“It’s a game, you can’t get frustrated,” McFadden said. “If you get frustrated, you only get down on yourself, so you have to just go out there and keep grinding, keep pushing forward.”
Allen isn’t about to abandon the run after only two games. He said sometimes the game dictates how often run plays are called.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in our running game,” Allen said. “I’ve seen it work. It’s been successful in this league and we’ve got the right personnel to get it done.”
— Palmer attempted 94 passes the first two games. Combine that with an entire offseason, training camp and four exhibition games, and it has to make for a tired arm, right?
Not so, Palmer said.
“Oh, yeah, my arm feels great,” Palmer said. “My arm feels great and, hopefully, I pray that I continue to stay healthy. But my arm feels great.”
Palmer estimated that he attempted 120 passes in practice today, so 47 or so in a game isn’t much of a workload, by comparison.
— Allen had this to say about new cornerback Brandian Ross, who was signed earlier today to the 53-man roster:
“He’s a big guy, a physical guy, has got some coverage skills. He’s a guy that Reggie knew about from being there with him, so he was a guy we thought could come in and compete.”
How soon remains in question. Ross has four days to learn enough of the coverage schemes to be of use to the Raiders on Sunday.
“That’s the plan,” Ross said, when asked if he intended to play Sunday. “Try to pick it up ASAP, so I can help get this first W here.”
Coincidentally, Ross was convinced by then-Packers personnel guy Reggie McKenzie to stay in Green Bay last season when another team wanted to sign him from the practice squad.
It was McKenzie who convinced Ross to bolt the Packers this time, with McKenzie running the show in Oakland as the general manager.
— Once again, the Raiders are urging fans to enter the stadium at home games to enter at least one hour before kick-off.
As an incentive, the Raiders have a program in place that rewards selected fans with prizes. For more information about Early In and You May Win, go to: http://www.raiders.com/gameday