Last year, the Oakland Raiders faded down the stretch. However, if they had beaten the San Diego Chargers in the season finale, they would have hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card playoffs. Instead, a long off-season began and in less than four days, the Raiders can avenge that loss when they host their rivals from San Diego on Monday Night Football.
“We are well aware of who knocked us out,” Raiders starting quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We talked about that enough. We understand. We haven’t forgotten what happened last year.”
Coach Dennis Allen got two receivers back on his roster, Denarius Moore and Derek Hagan, possibly in time to play in Monday’s game. The talented Moore made his return for the first time since a right hamstring strain on August 4. He first injured in minicamp and again when training camp started. He ended up missing the entire preseason.
“I think (sitting out) was the best to do that right there to make sure it was 100 percent and get confidence back in my hamstring when I got back out there,” Moore said.
The timing couldn’t be better. Last year in two games against San Diego, Moore had eight catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. But Moore knows this is a new season.
“I don’t let that get to me because I’ve been preaching the whole time that was last year,” Moore said. “This year is a new year so you have to prove yourself again.”
Now the challenge is to get back in sync with Palmer. Last year, after Palmer was aquired via trade with the Cincinnati Bengals, Moore was his favorite target. In the quarterback’s first game against the Chargers at San Diego on November 10, Palmer threw touchdown passes to Moore of 33 and 26 yards.
Palmer is cautiously optimistic about Moore’s return, given the length of his absence.
“Just to see him in a helmet in shoulder pads, it’s been so long. I know he’s worked hard at it,” Palmer said. “I know it’s been a frustrating training camp for him because he’s a football player and that’s what he wants to be doing. It’s good to see him out there getting reps, getting his legs back out there underneath him. He’s going to need that. You lose football shape really fast and it’s hard to get it back.”
The other player to make his return in a Raider uniform, Hagan, was signed on Thursday and has less than four days to learn offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s playbook.
“Some stuff is still the same but that’s one thing I know, I got three days to learn it and make sure I’m right and I’m out there doing the right thing,” Hagan said.
Last year, Hagan caught 11 passes for 114 yards in six games with two starts for the Raiders, but he was released in November to make room on the 53-man roster for T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
“I just told myself you gotta keep working because you never know what could happen,” Hagan said. “That happened but you just gotta move on and learn from it and hopefully the next place you go, things will be different.”
Hagan made the most of the situation signing on with the Buffalo Bills for the remainder of last season. But now he’s back with Oakland in part because of injuries to the receiving corps. Juron Criner and Moore were both limited in practice. Criner has an ankle injury
Other notes from Thursday’s practice: C Stefen Wisniewski, who missed most of training camp with a calf injury, had a normal practice as did K Sebastian Janikowski, who missed the preseason finale (left groin) and was back in practice after missing a day to be with his wife and newborn twin girls. TE David Ausberry (shoulder) and TE Brandon Myers (shoulder) also practiced wtih the team. Richard Seymour (knee) and G Cooper Carlisle (back) were limited in practice. Former CB DeMarkus Van Dyke has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders host the Steelers on September 23.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.