The Raiders are 11-point underdogs to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, but the way things have been going for them lately, they could lose by 111 and it couldn't possibly feel worse.
The Raiders are down to bare bones with the revelation Wednesday that four more players have been placed on injured reserve.
Joining quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Marques Tuiasosopo, linebacker Bill Romanowski, offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb and defensive end Sam Williams on the out-for-the-year list were defensive end Trace Armstrong, linebacker Travian Smith and rookie running back Justin Fargas.
The Raiders are down to the backups of the backups at quarterback, outside linebacker and kickoff returner.
While shrugging and saying "that's the way it goes," coach Bill Callahan said, "in professional football, I have never seen anything like this."
Which is always nice when you're traveling to Kansas City -- no lark at any time -- to face a Chiefs team that is coming off its first loss of the year after nine straight victories.
"We're going to need everybody Sunday when we go into Arrowhead and try to piece this thing together," Callahan said.
Armstrong has now landed on injured reserve all three years he has been in Oakland. He is 38 years old and this could mark the end of his career. He suffered a subluxation (snap dislocation) of his left shoulder against Minnesota Sunday.
"Any talk about a players' future to me right now is not a priority," Callahan said. "I haven't had a chance to go into depth or look into the future about that. I am just trying to get through the week."
Taking the place of those lost players will be a 223-pound linebacker, a defensive end who was benched earlier this year for shoddy play and a 185-pound kick returner who nearly had his head removed by the Vikings' special teams Sunday.
Eric Johnson is the linebacker. He wears No. 41 because he started his Raider career as a safety. He was moved to cornerback later and then to safety before being converted into a part-time linebacker.
His size could be an issue against the Chiefs since he will be called on to help stop the potent Chiefs running game with Priest Holmes, and at the same time help contain tight end Tony Gonzalez.
"They can say all they want to say (about size)," Johnson said. "They will see on Sunday. They tried to say Zack Thomas was too small to play. They tried to say No. 52 from Dallas (Dexter Coakley) was too small. It's all technique, leverage and mentality. If I can run down and hit a wedge I can damn sure go play linebacker."
The defensive end is DeLawrence Grant, whose run-technique faltered earlier this year when he was made the starter at left end. He was banished to the inactive list after three starts, but that lasted only one week.
The kick returner will be Alvis Whitted, a slightly-built former sprinter. He survived a near beheading Sunday after Fargas left.
Both Travian Smith and Fargas have torn medial collateral ligament damage. Smith started the year as Romanowski's backup. He started seven games. Fargas replaced the waived Ronney Jenkins as the kick returner.
Things are so bad that among the four free agents the Raiders claimed Sunday, two could see duty after just three practices -- defensive end Lorenzo Bromell and running back J.R. Redmond. Neither has been with a team since the August 31 cutdown that saw them waived by Minnesota and New England, respectively.
The Raiders gave the Chiefs a scare on October 20, losing 17-10 when a late drive petered out at the Kansas City 1 when the clock ran out. That was before Gannon and Tuiasosopo went down.
Now it's up to a flood of backups to get it done.
"There is no fear," said rookie defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, one of those who will help fill in after the loss of Armstrong. "We respect the team but we still have to play football ... I don't know what to say after that."
Ouch might be appropriate.
SERIES HISTORY: 87th meeting. The Raiders and Chiefs are all knotted up -- 42-42-2 -- in their 44-year-old series that started July 31, 1960 when the two teams played in their first-ever games, an exhibition contest at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. It was the second AFL game ever played. The Chiefs, then the Dallas Texans, won 20-13. They got a repeat victory five weeks later, 34-16, in the regular season opener. The Chiefs' 17-10 win in Oakland earlier this year snapped a seven game string in which the Raiders had won six times.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--NFL Players Association president Gene Upshaw was a visitor at the Raiders facility Wednesday but Callahan insisted it was not for the reasons given.
It had been reported Upshaw was there to meet with the four Raiders alleged to have tested positive for the steroid THG. That may have occurred, but according to the coach the visit pertained to "a league survey that was scheduled weeks ago."
Upshaw was not available for comment.
Center Barret Robbins was presented the team's Ed Block Courage Award at a Tuesday banquet.
--Rookie defensive end Tyler Brayton has started 10 games this year and is learning an NFL season is quite unlike being in college.
"Right now we'd have a week off then the big red would come into town," the Colorado alum said of Nebraska. "And unless we were in the playoffs, that would be it. I'd be trying to figure out how to pass my next midterm right now.
"Getting ready for a bowl game? How about a bye week?"
--Quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo has a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. This week, linebacker Travian Smith and Justin Fargas went down with the same injury in the same knee.
"Same part, same leg ... I don't know what is going on," Tuiasosopo said. "Hopefully that's it. We've had our fair share of injuries this year."
--Last week, Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson "guaranteed" his Bengals would deal the Chiefs their first defeat of the year. Raider wide receiver Jerry Porter was asked if he had a guarantee he'd like to make this week.
"Know what," he said. "I'll guarantee ... that we will go out to Kansas City ... and play real hard."
--Cornerback Phillip Buchanon was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 11 after intercepting two passes, returning one for a 64-yard touchdown, forcing a fumble and making five tackles.
He and Deion Sanders both hail from Fort Myers and speak on the phone frequently. There is a little bit of Sanders in Buchanon's glib and self-confident personality, spiced by off-the-wall quotes.
A few samples:
"They say you're going to be starting (eventually) because talent finds a way back on the field, I was always ready. I was born ready as soon as I came out of the womb."
"I'm a 5-9 guy," he said. "But I play like I'm 6-2."
"I am still a work in progress. But I'd say in about another year or two my play is going to double up. Y'all just get ready."
In the meantime I am just going to do what I do best and make plays. If Kansas City gives me a chance to make plays you best believe I am going to do it."
"I'm a man who is just so undefined ... a lot of people really want to know who I am. I can't really address it. I am just some other person who doesn't belong here."
"Here?" Meaning what, Oakland? The United States? Earth?
"Here meaning the earth," he said, adding. "I'm just messing with you."
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- The number of changes the Raiders have had to make on the offensive line to date.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nothing positive comes out of a third quarterback jumping in the air when you have a guy who's been on the team two weeks backing him up and a guy who's been on the practice squad backing him up. I was thinking `Keep your butt on the ground.' Have I done that? Yeah. And nothing positive came out of that either. It was on the goal line and I tried to do the Randall Cunningham dive. It hurt, too." -- Wide receiver Jerry Porter on quarterback Rick Mirer's airborne leap at the goal line against Minnesota.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
After placing four players on injured reserve this week, the Raiders signed four free agents and put them on their active roster.
--Defensive end Lorenzo Bromell, a former starter with the Miami Dolphins. He was released by Minnesota on Aug. 31 after he had signed a five-year contract with the Vikings. He had 21[1/2] sacks over a four-year span with the Dolphins.
--Running back J.R. Redmond, a former New England Patriots running back that was released in training camp. In his rookie year in 2000 when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, the 5-11, 215-pound Arizona State product rushed for 406 yards and a touchdown with five starts. In his best game, Redmond rushed for 97 yards and caught a touchdown pass. He was a third round pick in 2000.
--Linebacker Larry Atkins, also a former third round pick (Kansas City). He played for four years for the Chiefs before being released on the final cutdown this year. He has no starts and played mainly on special teams with 32 tackles. A former UCLA player, he was a weak-side backer for the Chiefs.
--Guard Corey Hulsey, who was with the Raiders throughout training camp but was released with an injury settlement on the final cutdown on Aug. 31.
Callahan hinted that Bromell and Redmond conceivably could be active and contribute in Sunday's game.
The Raiders also signed two new players to the practice squad after releasing offensive lineman Matt Knudson and linebacker Santonio Beard. New to the squad are defensive back Carey Scott and linebacker J.R. Johnson.
--CB Charles Woodson (thumb) was not included on the injury list but was wearing a cast-like device on his right hand Wednesday during practice. Coach Bill Callahan denied any knowledge of the injury.
--QB Rick Mirer (finger) had surgery Monday on the pinkie finger on his left (non-throwing) hand but is practicing and was not included on the team's injury list.
--RB Charlie Garner (back) is listed as doubtful for the Chiefs game but he was permitted to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. "We'll take it day to day and see how it progresses," coach Bill Callahan said. "We should have a pretty good handle on where he is at by the end of the week."
--DT Dana Stubblefield (ankle) returned to practice for the first time in three weeks Wednesday. He is doubtful for the Chiefs game.
--DE Trace Armstrong (shoulder) is out for the year on injured reserve with a subluxation of his right shoulder. He was the team's sack leader with three.
--RB Justin Fargas (knee) is out for the year on injured reserve with a partially torn left medial collateral ligament.
--LB Travian Smith (knee) is out for the year on injured reserve with a partially torn left medial collateral ligament.
--DE Sam Williams (knee) was placed on injured reserve and is out for the year.
--DT John Parrella (groin) has not been on the practice field since being injured on Oct. 5. No target date his return has been announced.
--G Frank Middleton (quad) is practicing again this week. He was inactive last week against Minnesota.
--C Barret Robbins (knee) was given Wednesday off to rest a sore knee but is expected to play at Kansas City.
--DT Rod Coleman (shoulder) is probable for the Chiefs and practiced Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: The Chiefs stacked the box to stop the run in the first meeting of the teams but that was before the Raiders started running the ball seriously. Still, Oakland managed to run for 100 yards in that game. Callahan said the Raiders would not bang their head against the wall and press the ground attack regardless. He said he expects the Chiefs to throw a variation of the eight-man front against his team. The Raiders could be vulnerable to the run with their entire left side in tatters. Gone are left end Trace Armstrong, strong-side linebackers Bill Romanowski and Travian Smith. Strong-side linebacker Eric Johnson is only 223 pounds. Armstrong's replacement, DeLawrence Grant was benched earlier this year for his play against the run. Finally, strong safety Derrick Gibson has struggled all year.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: LE DeLawrence Grant cannot permit himself to be dominated by Chiefs RT John Tait and SLB Eric Johnson must not allow himself to be engulfed by TE Tony Gonzalez or the Raiders could be in for a long afternoon. It is top secret whether LCB Charles Woodson will be isolated on WR Johnnie Morton or Eddie Kennison as he was on Randy Moss last week. Since the two Chiefs' receivers have virtually identical statistical numbers, Woodson may just stay on the left side and face Kennison.
INJURY IMPACT: Just when the Raiders were starting to get their defensive legs under them, they lose two starters in Armstrong and Smith, who play on the same side. Garner's status is important if for no other reason than the Raiders have run Wheatley 55 times the past two weeks and there are few options as a replacement with Fargas out. However, when given the ball against Kansas City, Wheatley has had some fine games. Two of the better ones came three years ago when he was 15-for-67 and 20-for-112.
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