ALAMEDA – Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson has returned from injury twice already this season. Neither lasted long, with a setback or separate ailment putting him back to the shelf.
It was a calf, then a knee, the a calf again that kept him out of all but a dozen or so practices since training camp began.
He came back to practice again Wednesday with a renewed optimism and a more cautious approach to his early work.
“I’m taking each day as it’s own,” said Watson, a second-round pick from Florida State. “Right now I’m just feeling blessed to be on the field. My mindset is still focused on the game plan. In terms of the injury, I don’t want to stress myself unnecessarily. Last time I came back I was so worked up and all I could think was ‘get in the lineup,’ ‘get in the lineup,’ ‘get in the lineup.’ I put a lot of stress on myself.”
One problem, Menelik. The Raiders may need you back sooner over later. The Raiders prefer to ease him into the fold, but sentiment may lose out to an offensive line desperate for healthy bodies.
Right tackle Tony Pashos remains out with a bum hip flexor, leaving Watson has the only reserve tackle.
“With some of our depth issues up front, he may be forced into action sooner than we would normally want,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “We have to evaluate how he goes throughout practice, and how he progresses both mentally and physically.”
That’s why Watson will work at left and right tackle. He’d be a swing reserve if he’s ready this week, and Watson understands that. He feels confident in his mental preparation, and has no problem run blocking in the box. His concerns making movements in space may tax his legs.
“The hope is that I’ll be ready to go 100 percent on Friday and see what happens from there,” Watson said. “Right now, it’s about earning the trust of the coaches, so they know that I’ll be ready when they need me. It kind of sucks for everybody, because the coaches see me work and think I’ll be ready. Then I get excited about the prospect and then my teammates do. It’s frustrating when you can’t finish.”
Burris’ practice window opens: Raiders linebacker Miles Burris practiced for the first time this calendar year on Wednesday. He remained out recovering from a knee surgery he didn’t shed much light on, which prompted the Raiders to place him on the physically unable to perform list.
He can practice for 21 days before the Raiders must activate Burris or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
“It feels good to be back out with the team,” Burris said. “I just want to contribute in any way I can.”
The Raiders have taught him to play all three linebacker spots, but it’s uncertain exactly how or if Burris will contribute this season.
“He’s been paying attention to all the spots, but the biggest thing is getting him through some football activities,” Allen said. “We need to see where he’s at in term of movement and conditioning. That will be a big factor when and if we bring him up to the active roster this season.”
OT Menelik Watson (calf)
Did not practice: SS Tyvon Branch (ankle), RT Tony Pashos (hip flexor), C/G Andre Gurode (quadriceps).
Physically unable to perform list (entered 21-day practice window): LB Miles Burris (knee)
Injured reserve: TE David Ausberry (shoulder), RB Latavius Murray (ankle), K Eddie Carmona (leg), G Tony Bergstrom (foot); Designated to return: LT Jared Veldheer (triceps)