By Ryan Leong
As anticipated, cornerback Ron Bartell returned to practice for the first time since he broke his left shoulder blade in the season opener at home vs. the San Diego Chargers. He was inadvertently hit by teammate Lamarr Houston and then was placed on the temporary injured reserve list.
But Bartell is not eligible to return to action until November 11 against the Baltimore Ravens. For now the Raiders have 21 days to activate Bartell or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
“He was limited but yet he got a pretty good amount of work,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “The progress has slowed a lot more than what we anticipated. We anticipated there would be more progress by this point in time, but it’s coming around a little slower than what we had hoped. It’s through no fault of his, just the nature of the injury.”
Some injuries aren’t going as well. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer’s foot injury is still not healing as expected. Allen says it’s not a setback but it certainly isn’t progressing like they thought it would. Spencer has missed the last five games and it’s almost certain that he will miss Sunday’s game vs. Tampa Bay. Tackle Khalif Barnes (groin), defensive tackle Richard Seymour (rest for sore knees) and linebacker Keenan Clayton (shoulder) also missed practice.
Limited participants in practice included offensive tackle Willie Smith (ankle), middle linebacker Rolando McClain (toe), defensive end David Tollefson (shoulder) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (left groin).
Center Stefen Wisniewski who was also limited (ankle) and running back Mike Goodson (turf toe) practiced fully and both are expected to start Sunday’s game according to Allen.
As a result of the injuries to Bartell and Spencer, free safety Michael Huff made a position change to corner with the intent to shut down one receiver. Although he was burned badly in his first two games against Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Denver’s Peyton Manning, he showed tremenous improvement since the bye week.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, quarterback Matt Ryan repeatedly threw the ball in Huff’s direction. Huff had one interception and broke up three other passes, and in the last two games, which were both Raiders wins, Huff has allowed only one catch for two yards.
“I don’t think Willie Brown has anything to worry about yet,” said Allen, referring to the Hall of Fame cornerback who played for the Raiders in the 1960′s and 70′s. “But he has improved. That’s what we expect and that’s we will continue to expect every day that he has an opportunity to go out and work and he’ll get a little bit better every week.”
Linebacker Aaron Curry has had seven consecutive days of practice but there is still no timetable for his return to the playing field. It’s questionable as to his status whether he’ll be activated in time to play against the Bucs.
“We have to make the decision that is best for the team as well as, listen, he hasn’t played football in a long time,” Allen said. “It’s not like you can just come out and start playing football after a week or two and everything is fine and good.”
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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.