The 2016 season ended with a whimper for the Oakland Raiders. Through 16 weeks of football, they sat atop the AFC West with a 12-3 record, with their first playoff appearance in 14 years on the horizon and a chance to clinch the division during the final week of the regular season imminent.
Then the unthinkable happened. Their franchise quarterback broke his fibula.
Without Derek Carr at the helm, the Raiders laid an egg against the Denver Broncos in week 17, slipping to the fifth seed in the AFC, as the Kansas City Chiefs passed them to take the AFC West crown. The first round of the playoffs wasn’t much better; the Raiders were outplayed by the Houston Texans and got eliminated in the process.
Like a stray lightning bolt hitting an apple tree in the middle of an open field.
The last three games of 2016 have to be on each and every player’s mind entering the 2017 season. In spite of the heartbreak, hopes are high once again for the Raiders to make some noise in a generally wide open AFC. However, the team hasn’t eluded the injury bug quite yet, though not quite on the scale of Carr’s broken fibula.
The fourth-year QB began training camp in perfect health, though the same can’t be said for his top wideout, Amari Cooper, who tweaked his left calf during the first week of activities and has been in-and-out of practice since. On the bright side, however, the third-year receiver has been sharp when he has been on the field and did practice on Thursday.
Cooper isn’t the only big name hurt, however. Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. and linebacker Bruce Irvin have also dealt with nagging injuries, with the former fighting off a hamstring strain and the latter suffering an unknown injury, though they too returned to action on Thursday. Edwards in particular is of note, as he has struggled with physical ailments in each of his first three seasons, missing most of last season with a hip injury.
Free agent addition Jelani Jenkins has many of the same concerns as Edwards. The former Miami Dolphins linebacker played the majority of 2016 with a knee injury, affecting his play as a result. Jenkins has also missed some time during camp with an undisclosed injury.
The 2017 rookie class hasn’t fared much better. First round corner Gareon Conley hasn’t practiced at all since suffering from shin splints during minicamp. Fourth-round offensive lineman David Sharpe is in a walking boot after an ankle injury early in camp. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu also missed Friday’s practice with an undisclosed injury. That’s three of the Raiders’ top four draft picks all dealing with injuries, which doesn’t bode well for the team in the short-term. Especially coupled with third round defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes‘ previous history of knee issues.
Still, injuries in training camp aren’t exactly unheard of. It’s common to see team staffs hold players back from full practice time to prevent more serious injuries, and the Raiders are no exception. The extent of these injuries should be more clear by the time the team faces off against the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 12.