Ritchie may play against Chargers

Jon Ritchie returned to practice on Tuesday, raising hopes that the Raiders fullback might be able to play this weekend when Oakland travels to face San Diego, just in time for a reunion with Chargers middle linebacker Junior Seau.

As the Raiders lead blocking back and one of the team's top pass protectors, Ritchie has had several run-ins with Seau over the last few seasons. Oakland's gritty fullback has been able to hold his own for the most part during these clashes, but he's also wound up on his back a few times courtesy of Seau. Ritchie did not play in the Raiders win over Kansas City last week due to a high ankle sprain. Team officials originally estimated Ritchie could be sidelined 3-5 weeks but all indications are that he is ahead of schedule in his rehabillitation. Zack Crockett, who started against the Chiefs and had a key block during an 18-yard run by Charlie Garner, took most of the reps with Oakland's starting offense Tuesday while Ritchie was limited in his workout. Ritchie is still listed as questionable to play against the Chargers and Seau, who leveled Ritchie in the first meeting between Oakland and San Diego earlier this season. That's made Ritchie the target of good-natured ribbing from his teammates. ''Guys are giving him a hard time. 'It's a good time to have your foot in little sling there, Jonny.' '' said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. ''But obviously he's a starting fullback, he's done a lot for us. Lot of it hasn't showed up in the stat column but we really need him. We miss him. But in the meantime we think Crockett's capable of going in and playing well.'' NOTES: Cornerback Charles Woodson, right guard Mo Collins and left tackle Barry Sims were all held out of practice Tuesday. Collins is the only one of the three already ruled out of Saturday's game. Woodson is expected back on the practice field later this week, and Gruden said he expects the All-Pro cornerback to get some work returning punts Thursday. Sims, who has been hobbled by a broken bone in his right foot, is also nursing a sore shoulder ... Contrary to one Sacramento radio talk show host, there is still no word from the NFL regarding the possible suspension of defensive tackle. KHTK host Grant Napear told listeners Tuesday that the suspension was official, but the league has yet to make an announcement and Gruden told reporters there was no news. Russell worked out with the Raiders on Tuesday, an indication no ruling had been made yet by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ... Running back Tyrone Wheatley has been taking reps returning kickoffs in practice. The Raiders say it's only in case of an emergency should Terry Kirby, the normal kick returner, get hurt. Randy Jordan is also working out as a return man ... Gruden was impressed with the play of Johnnie Harris, who played most of the second half in place of starting strong safety Marquez Pope. Harris made a team-high nine tackles and was awarded a game ball afterward. ''He did some good things out there, as a cover man, as a tackler, as a guy who instinctively made some plays,'' said Gruden. ''At some point, some time, he'll get an opportunity and we'll see what he does. He's a young guy that's been around the block a little bit. He's worked hard to get this opportunity in the NFL and his next step is to somehow become the starter and not relinquish that role. That's the one thing that he's been lacking.'' ... The Raiders had two players in for workouts Tuesday, wide receiver Kevin McKenzie, who caught 53 passes for 622 yards and 14 yards for the San Jose Saber Cats of the Arena League this past offseason; and Nick Ward, a defensive back and punt returner at the University of Miami who most recently played for the Carolina Cobras of the Arena League.

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