Harris replaces Pope at strong safety

The Raiders have decided to make a change in their secondary after all, taking out strong safety Marquez Pope and replacing him with Johnnie Harris. Harris, the former Arena League defensive player of the year, worked out with Oakland's starting defense Wednesday as the team prepared for this weekend's game in San Diego.

Harris didn't start last week against Kansas City but played most of the second half in place of Pope and wound up leading the Raiders with nine tackles. Oakland secondary coach Ron Lynn broke the news to Harris on Wednesday that he would be stepping into the team's starting defensive lineup against the Chargers. ''That's been my will all year. I've always wanted that,'' said Harris. ''With the controversy with our defense, it's a good chance to step up and show what I can do.'' The Raiders defense has been maligned in recent weeks because of its inability to stop the run. Over the last five weeks opponents have run the ball at will against Oakland, averaging 194.6 yards on the ground. Much of the criticism leveled at the Raiders defense has zeroed in on the play of the safeties, Pope and Anthony Dorsett. Both have defended themselves, citing breakdowns everywhere on the defense. Oakland head coach Jon Gruden said earlier this week he didn't anticipate making any lineup changes. Thus when Wednesday's news broke, Pope was caught off guard. ''None of this looks right,'' said Pope. ''It's been said we don't point fingers but obviously I've missed something.'' Harris won't necessarily be the full-time starter. Pope said he would still start on third-down, goal-line and short-yardage plays. ''We're just looking for a little change of pace,'' said Gruden. ''We're going to let Marquez Pope come off the bench and observe a little bit. Johnnie, based on how he played against Kansas City, deserves this opportunity. Fullback Jon Ritchie, still recovering from an ankle injury, expanded his workout Wednesday and Gruden said there is a chance Ritchie will play against San Diego. Tight end Roland Williams and left tackle Barry Sims were limited in their workouts, while cornerback Charles Woodson did not practice. Woodson is expected to rejoin workouts on Thursday. BROWN HONORED Wide receiver Tim Brown was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in last week's win over Kansas City. At 35 years old, Brown became the oldest player in NFL history to return a punt for a touchdown. INJURY REPORT Raiders: Guard Mo Collins (leg) doubtful; fullback Jon Ritchie (ankle) questionable; cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) questionable; tight end Roland Williams (ankle/knee) probable; tackle Barry Sims (foot) questionable. Chargers: Wide receiver Tim Dwight (pneumothorax) out; running back Terrell Fletcher (hamstring) out; cornerback Alex Molden (ankle) out; cornerback Tay Cody (ankle) questionable; safety Jason Perry (knee) questionable; guard DeMingo Graham (hip) probable.

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