Mario Edwards Jr. has been cleared to play. That’s great news for the Raiders and their young defensive lineman, who has dealt with a serious neck injury these past five months that left his NFL future in some doubt.
Edwards Jr. got hurt in a Week 15 loss to Green Bay after a collision with Packers running back Eddie Lacy. The Raiders never gave a formal diagnosis, repeatedly stating Edwards Jr. needed more time and more tests to determine if he would be eligible to play football.
The third-year lineman announced that he had been cleared Friday morning on his verified Instagram account.
Edwards Jr.'s camp confirmed he had been cleared, but didn't go into details of the injury or reveal a formal diagnosis. Edwards Jr. did not have surgery on his neck but had his neck examined several times over the winter. He had participated in early portions of the Raiders offseason program, but formal clearance was a final hurdle to him being a full participant as football activity increases.
Edwards Jr. was placed on injured reserve shortly after the Packers game with what head coach Jack Del Rio dubbed a “significant” neck injury. General manager Reggie McKenzie said during Super Bowl week that the Packers incident uncovered a previously existing issue that required time to analyze. The Raiders haven’t provided many details since, though there was some optimism that Edwards Jr. would return.
His final clearance solidifies a fearsome defensive front loaded with talent inside and out. Edwards Jr. will rotate from defensive end to tackle in passing situations, working with edge rushers Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and rookie Shilique Calhoun. The Raiders have interior talent as well, with Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Denico Autry and rookie Jihad Ward.