Khalif Barnes started the first two games at right offensive tackle for the Raiders this season. Willie Smith replaced Smith the past six games after Barnes suffered a groin injury. It might be next-man-up time, with Barnes still recovering from groin surgery and Smith struggling with his consistency.
In that case, Raiders coach Dennis Allen said rookie Tony Bergstrom is the next option. Bring it on, Bergstrom said, in essence.
“I feel like I’m ready and I’m just kind of waiting for that opportunity,” Bergstrom said when hit with the news that he was unaware of at the time. “I’m just filling in wherever I can help. Whatever I can do for this team I’m happy to do.”
The Raiders used their first draft pick — a third-rounder — this year on Bergstrom. He progressed well through the offseason workouts and training camp, by all accounts, yet the Raiders were set at the five starting positions.
Therefore, Bergstrom honed his skills at guard, as well as keeping fresh at his natural position, tackle, in case he got called upon in case of injury to a starter in a game. He has not played an offensive snap so far.
Bergstrom said he has been practicing both guard and tackle, right and left, in recent weeks. Yet, he is prepared to play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, if asked to do so.
Bergstrom said he has gleaned quite a bit from watching his teammates play the first eight games of the season. The time has been well spent.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Bergstrom said. “It helps being able to see, especially seeing guys you play with all day and how they handle the competition out there. Being able to do that is better than watching film, being able to see how your own guys play out there. Every game has been a learning experience for me. I’ve tried to use it as such.”
Smith has played well at times, struggled other times. He got called for a holding penalty against the Buccaneers on Sunday on a play that nullified a long touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to wide receiver Derek Hagan. He also got beat for a sack.
“We’re going to look at things,” Allen said. “We talked about that this morning, about looking at Tony Bergstrom as a potential. And we’re not going to close our eyes and act like we don’t see things that are happening. We’re going to try to address whatever needs to be addressed.”
— Cornerback Ron Bartell said he is optimistic about his recovery from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the past seven games.
The Raiders can activate him at any time, and Bartell is eligible to play Sunday against the Ravens. Bartell said he isn’t sure how it’s going to play out just yet.
“We have until Saturday to make that decision, so I’m going to put another good week of practice in,” Bartell said, “and if all goes well at practice, and they deem me fit and ready to play, then I’ll be ready to play.”
Bartell returned to practice for the first time since his injury five days ago. Practicing is one thing, being in good enough shape to hold up for 65-70 plays in a football game is quite another, he said.
“I made some good progress, but missing seven weeks, just not being in game shape, it’s tough to get back,” Bartell said. “I definitely feel a lot better, a lot more confident. I’ve got antoher week to get prepared, and that’s what I plan on doing. We’ll make that decision on Saturday.”
— Fellow starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer is expected to take his right foot for a test drive, so to speak, Tuesday. He hasn’t practiced or played in a game since he hurt his right foot against the Miami Dolphins more than seven weeks ago.
He said the pain lessens with each passing day. He isn’t sure what to expect when he goes through a workout Tuesday.
“I’m just pretty much a go out and wing it kind of guy,” Spencer said. “So we’ll go out, do whatever they say, and see how it plays out.”
Allen said last week that Spencer’s progress had slowed and not gone as well as expected. Spencer’s take is that he is ahead of scheudle.
Either way, Spencer has done everything he can to stay sharp mentally and from a cardiovascular standpoint.
“It’s tough to watch,” Spencer said. “Just the competitive nature inside of me. It’s part of the game. But you do what you can. You still prepare the same, as far as attending your meetings, breaking your film down, doing whatever you can to help the guys that are playing to stay in tune to help them prepare as well. But other than that, man, mentally that’s how I stay in it. Keep my routine, minus the practices and the games.”
— Free safety Matt Giordano said he suffered a hamstring “strain” against the Buccaneers. The early prognosis is promising for his return for the Ravens game.
“Luckily there was no discoloration, so that’s the biggest step right there,” Giordano said. “Now, it’s kind of, I’ll be living in the training room for the next 72 hours, that’s for sure, getting it right.”
Giordano got hurt while chasing Bucs running back Doug Martin on one of Martin’s three long touchdown runs. Giordano went down near the goal line and immediately grabbed his hamstring.
He went to the locker room for treatment but returned later and asked back in the game. Trainers talked Giordano into sitting out as a precautionary measure.
“I was trying to convince everybody that I was good,” Giordano said. “When you’re feeling the crowd and everything, you want to get back in. You want to be in there with your teammates. The trainers were telling me “be smart,” but I wanted to go in and play and definitely give it a shot to see where I was.”
Giordano faulted himself for missing two tackles two of Martin’s long touchdown runs. Martin
: “You got to just tip your hat to the running back. He made a lot of great runs. There was some (missed) tackling going on. I missed two tackles. We all missed tackles out there. Our technique wasn’t good but, you know what, he beat our technique. So, he ran hard, he played well, hat’s off to him.”