Armstrong vows to play again

Raiders could also be without Wheatley and Collins after tests revealed extent of injuries

Trace Armstrong, who has not played since rupturing the Achilles tendon in his right foot during the Raiders win over Seattle last month, made a rare appearance in the team's locker room with the aid of a pair of crutches Wednesday and vowed to play again for Oakland, hopefully as soon as next season. Armstrong, 36, told reporters the 35-minute surgery to repair is Achilles tendon went fine and that he has already started down the long, arduous road of rehabilitation. ‘'I'm not ready to quit yet, I'm not,‘' said Armstrong. ‘'I still love what I do. I enjoy the process of getting ready for a season. I enjoy the process of playing. I know a lot of people are saying he's 36 but I still fell like I've got some good football left in me despite this.'' Armstrong, 20th on the NFL's all-time sack list, was injured on a freak play during the Raiders win over the Seahawks on Sept. 30. Almost as soon as he hit the turf at Networks Associates Coliseum, Armstrong said he knew he was seriously hurt. ‘'I was pushing on the tight end and it was like an explosion in the back of my leg,'' Armstrong said. ‘'My first thought was that somebody hit me from behind. When I fell down I started going back in my mind and I was thinking formation-wise there wasn't anybody outside of me so that wasn't it. Then I could just feel my foot hanging kind of loosely. I knew. For a little while I was pretty distraught because I knew this wasn't going to be a one-week or three-week thing. I knew it was the end of my season. After a few hours of self pity you start putting the pieces back together and getting started on the rehab process.'' Since the injury Armstrong said he has heard from several people, athletes and non-athletes, who have had similar types of injuries. Among those he has spoken to include former Miami Dolphin teammate Dan Marino and track star Donovan Bailey. Though there has been no timetable set for Armstrong's own rehabilitation, the veteran defensive end and president of the NFL Players Association said he hopes to be able to get rid of his crutches soon. He also said he intends on remaining close to the Raiders team the rest of the season to offer whatever help he can. ‘'Next week I'm going to get back into meetings and try and get into a regular schedule where I can be a part of things and be out at practice,'' Armstrong said. ‘'I want to stay involved. I want to stay around the game and stay around the guys. This is who I am and this is what I do. Although I can't be out there playing I still want to be around it.'' WHEATLEY, COLLINS OUT INDEFINITELY Running back Tyrone Wheatley suffered what team officials said was either a second-degree sprain or a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during Oakland's win over Indianapolis on Sunday. Just how long the injury will keep Wheatley sidelined remains up for debate. Head coach Jon Gruden said Wheatley would not practice the rest of the week while ESPN was reporting Wheatley would be sidelined for at least 2-4 weeks, a report Gruden disputed. ‘'I'm not aware of ESPN's report but I wouldn't say I agree with that assessment,'' Gruden said. ESPN's Len Pasquarelli also reported that Wheatley was upset because he felt he was being de-emphasized in the Raiders' offense. Wheatley, who fumbled and dropped what looked to be an easy reception against Indianapolis, drew the ire of Gruden on the sidelines and threw his helmet over the team bench in frustration. But Gruden again denied there was any bitterness. ‘'Everybody is emphasized here,'' said Gruden. ‘'I'm sure I'll talk to Tyrone and he'll talk to me about it.'' Running back Terry Kirby, who has been inactive in each of Oakland's first five games, would be activated against Philadelphia if Wheatley cannot play. Right guard Mo Collins is also out indefinitely after tests revealed a stress fracture in his leg. Team officials originally believed Collins had a calf injury then later thought it might be a hamstring injury before MRI tests revealed the true nature of things. Frank Middleton has started the last two games in Collins place. ‘'Any time Mo Collins can't go you have to think something's wrong,'' said Gruden. ‘'Whether he can play with that (injury) remains to be seen.'' Back-up quarterback Bobby Hoying was also held out of practice, while rookie Marques Tuiasosopo took the majority of snaps behind starter Rich Gannon. Safety Marquez Pope did not practice, nor did left tackle Barry Sims who is nursing a sore left foot. Matt Stinchcomb worked in Sims place while Aaron Graham replaced Stinchcomb as the team's back-up center. Defensive tackle Grady Jackson was allowed to leave practice early in order to catch a plane back to Alabama where he is being inducted into his high school's hall of fame. In one minor roster move the Raiders re-signed Derrick Combs, their seventh-round draft pick who was released earlier this year. Combs was a running back in college whom the Raiders originally tried as a wide receiver. Now Combs is being worked out at cornerback and spent Monday talking after practice with defensive backs coach Ron Lynn and Hall of Fame defensive back Willie Brown.

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