Coach Dennis Allen and defensive end Andre Carter confirmed Monday that Carter is going to make his Raiders debut against the Atlanta Falcons.
How much Carter plays depends upon the situations that arise in the game. Given the Falcons attempted 52 passes last Sunday, it’s likely that Carter will have ample time to play for the first time since he suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury for the Patriots last December.
“I’ll be part of the rotation,” Carter said as he prepared to board a bus for the ride to the Oakland Airport. “Just to be a part of this defense is something that’s very special to me, and I’m just glad to be back after a long, long recovery through this injury.”
Allen also used the word “rotational,” when describing how Carter will be used.
“That’s how we’ve handled the defensive line anyway,” Allen said. “You have to try to limit the number of plays that they play, especially playing a team like Atlanta that throws the ball like they do. You want to make sure you keep some fresh rushers out there.”
Carter said he isn’t sure how many snaps he will get. But he’s ready for whatever defensive coordinator Jason Tarver throws his way.
The Raiders managed only three sacks through their first four games. A proven pass-rusher like Carter figures to provide some much-needed juice to the Raiders defense.
Carter said his vast experience in the NFL will help expedite his transition back to the field, as well as help his linemates.
“Myself, Richard Seymour, (Tommy) Kelly, we just have a lot of years of experience,” Carter said. “We’ve played a lot of crazy battles throughout this part of our career and just talking to younger guys. Every game is always going to be a battle. No win ever comes easy. You just got to earn your keep quarter after quarter.”
— Allen said Kelly held up well in practice today and that he expects Kelly to play Sunday, despite Kelly being bothered by a sore foot.
“Just looking at him today, he looked good,” Allen said.
— Right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes (groin), cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) and tight end Richard Gordon (hamstring) will not play Sunday, Allen said.
— Michael Huff will start at cornerback for the third straight game in place of Spencer.
Allen said Huff is making progress in his transition from free safety.
“No. 1, it’s the confidence of going out there and playing,” Allen said of Huff. “It’s a different world out there on the edge. There’s not nearly as many things mentally that go on on the edge as there are at safety, yet there’s a whole lot more physically that has to happen. So, he’s improved in that area.”
Huff is learning via trial by fire. He faced Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in his first game at cornerback, then followed that up with a game against Denver’s Peyton Manning. On Sunday, he faces the red-hot Matt Ryan.
“I didn’t get to ease into it,” Huff said. “I didn’t get any mediocre, just normal QBs. I get all the great Hall of Famers. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be the best, you’ve got to play against the best. So, kind of learning on the fly.”
— Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said it’s all systems go for Sunday, as far as he’s concerned.
Now, it’s just a matter of team doctors and Allen signing off on Heyward-Bey’s return to game action three weeks after he suffered a concussion against the Steelers.
“Right now, the plan is to go into Sunday and see how I feel,” Heyward-Bey said. “Hopefully it’s a go.”
Allen said earlier this week that he anticipates Heyward-Bey playing. Heyward-Bey said his mind-set is that he’s going to play.
“That’s totally up to coach and them,” Heyward-Bey said. “My plan is to always have the mindset to go out there and play.”
— Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon used to say that he knew how the Raiders were going to play based on how they practiced on the Friday before a game.
Allen said he is of the belief that you have to take into account the entire week of practice. From that viewpoint, Allen said, the Raiders are primed for their game Sunday.
“You kind of have a good feel for how things go in the week of practice,” Allen said. “But Sundays are odd. You never really know what you’re going to get on Sundays. The flow of the game dictates a lot of that, but we’ve had a good week of practice. We understand that we have a huge challenge going to Atlanta this week and we’ll see how it plays out on Sunday.”
— A victory over the Falcons on Sunday is the kind of win that could have a lasting impact on their final 11 games.
Beating the 5-0 Falcons, on the road, would have the potential to drive home the point to the players that the Raiders are capable of beating any team in the league, given the Falcons are considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
“Obviously, if you’re able to win against a team like Atlanta, it provides an extra boost of confidence to your team,” Allen said. “But, again, you can’t live from week to week and get too high and get too low. This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. We’ll go, we’ll play the game, we’ll take the outcome as it is and we’ll move forward from it.”