Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on Friday spoke for the first time since he suffered a concussion and strained neck against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said he is champing at the bit to get back on the field.
For now, Heyward-Bey is going through the league-mandated protocol for players that suffer a concussion. That means he isn’t permitted to participate in contact drills or to play in a game until he passes all the tests.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Heyward-Bey hasn’t passed the tests yet.
“Always; I want to play football,” Heyward-Bey said, when asked if he is itching to play again. “This is what I do for a living. So, definitely, I’m very eager to get back.”
That likely won’t be until after the Raiders bye week, at the earliest. He is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos after missing all three practices this week.
Heyward-Bey suffered his injury as a result of a helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers safety Ryan Mundy early in the fourth quarter of the teams’ game last Sunday.
The hit knocked Heyward-Bey unconscious and caused him to hit the turf face-first, which jarred his neck in a violent manner.
Heyward-Bey said he has no recollection of what happened from the time he got hit by Mundy. His first memory is of being carted off the field, at which time he raised his right arm and delivered a thumbs up to the crowd.
“That’s just football,” Heyward-Bey said. “I signed up to put on pads and go out there. That’s what happens out there. People get hit, people get hurt. It happens.”
Heyward-Bey said Mundy texted him soon after the incident. He holds no grudge toward Mundy, who wasn’t penalized for the hit. Mundy was fined $21,000 by the league.
“I told him, ‘Hey, it’s football,’ ” Heyward-Bey said.
— The Raiders already are without wide receiver Jacoby Ford for the season. Heyward-Bey almost certainly won’t play Sunday, either.
Now comes word that rookie wide receiver Rod Streater “tweaked” his neck during practice today, and he is questionable for the Broncos game.
That leaves the Raiders with only two healthy wide receivers right now — Denarius Moore and Derek Hagan, the likely starters.
Rookie Juron Criner still is recovering from an ankle injury. One possible solution is signing either Travionte Session or Tori Gurley from the practice squad.
Of course, as Allen said, there’s always the prospect of just using players such as running back Darren McFadden, fullback Marcel Reece and tight end David Ausberry more in the passing game.
“Having versatile players that give you the ability to do different things is, obviously, always a good luxury to have,” Allen said. “We feel confident in the players we have here and we feel like when we do sustain injuries that we have enough talent here that we can move people around to give ourselves a chance.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said Criner is making progress toward getting a better grasp of the offense, now that he is able to get more reps in practice than the previous three weeks.
“Like Rod has been, there’s some good weeks and some learning weeks,” Knapp said of Criner. “But they both have made progress and that’s what I’m pleased to see. With Juron, it kind of set him back that injury. A young guy can’t afford to miss reps. With the injury that he had he’s fully recovered now from, the hamstring, so he’s made progress this week.”
— Tight end Brandon Myers passed the concussion tests, and he is cleared to play Sunday, Allen said.
Myers participated in practice for the third straight day without any apparent setbacks from the concussion he received against the Steelers.
Myers still is listed as questionable. Just a matter of protocol there. Myers will start Sunday.
Backup tight end Richard Gordon suffered a hamstring injury during practice today, and he was added to the injury list. He, too, is questionable.
— Right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes (groin) and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) are out of Sunday’s game, Allen said.
That means Willie Smith will make his second straight start in place of Barnes, with Huff starting at cornerback opposite Pat Lee for the second straight game.
Smith said he is excited about the prospect of facing Broncos pass-rushing linebackers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
“It’s definitely a good test,” Smith said, “but as a player you want to go against these kind of guys because it allows you to kind of gauge where you’re at and how much more work you’ve got to do to get to where you want to be.”
— Defensive end Andre Carter received more reps in practice today than he did Thursday, Allen said. He is getting closer to making his Raiders debut.
“Every day that he practices, every day he’s out here with us, he’s one step closer to being on the field,” Allen said.
— Former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are broadcasting the Raiders-Broncos for CBS. Here’s what Simms had to say about the game.
“Even though there are basically two new coaches involved, no doubt it’s a heated rivalry that will never die. Although Denver lost to maybe the two best teams in football, they are still losses. What is the Bronco’s state of mind? Now, the Raiders have to be feeling good like they’re turning the corner after coming through at the end of the game on both sides of the ball against the Steelers? It makes me think it’s going to be a good game.”
As for what Simms thinks about quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning:
“The big thing with the Raiders was Carson Palmer. He was very good on basically every clutch throw in the game last week. And the other side is Peyton Manning. I’ve been beat up all week with questions about him. If you’re following it and a fan of Denver and of Peyton Manning, or if you’re just a football guy, you have to see what he did against Houston. You have to say there is no doubt it’s going forward. Now he’s got enough games, repetitions, getting hit and feeling the competition of the action. He is going to be able to make adjustments. He is actually getting better each week, even though he threw three interceptions. I don’t judge every game on whether you throw an interception or not. He was tested more in the Atlanta game than he was in the first game against the Steelers. He was tested a lot more against the Houston Texans. And I thought he had some long stretches of really good moments. My biggest question about the game is watching the Broncos offense and how they run it through Peyton Manning.”
— The Raiders depart for Denver on Saturday.