Different year, more injuries

The 2004 season is already enough of a reminder of 2003 for the Oakland Raiders but that cue became a little stronger on Monday.

The Oakland Raiders dropped to 2-5 Sunday after a 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints. That is the same record they had last season at this time on the way to a 4-12 season. Oakland has 13 players finish the season on injured reserve and players are getting hurt at rapid pace now as well.

Starting left guard Frank Middleton and rookie receiver/kickoff returner have been lost for the remainder of the season for the Raiders because of injuries that will require surgery.

As if that was not enough, four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson had an MRI exam Monday for a hip pointer and his status was uncertain.

Middleton, an eight-year veteran who turned 30 Monday, was carted off the field midway through the first quarter of Sunday's 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints for the Raiders fourth straight loss. Middleton sustained a torn left quadriceps muscle. Guard Brad Badger blocked a New Orleans player into him, causing Middleton to fall awkwardly with most of his weight on his left leg.

Tearing a quadriceps muscle has become nothing new to Middleton, who tore his right quadriceps last season and finished the year on injured reserve but did not need surgery.

Nonetheless, who is to say that Middleton has not played his last game in an Oakland uniform. Middleton has always been vocal about his feeling that his roster spot is in danger. The always loquacious Middleton restructured his contract before this season.

The Raiders are already thin at Middleton's position with Ron Stone nursing a knee injury.

Francis, meanwhile, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he fumbled a fourth-quarter kickoff and was pulled down from behind Jason Craft of New Orleans. Francis, the Raiders' fourth-round draft pick, is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday.

Colby Bockwoldt recovered the loose ball and ran it 6-yards into the end zone for what turned out to be the decisive score.

Defensive tackle Ted Washington has bruised ribs but could play Sunday when the Raiders visit the San Diego Chargers.

Running backs Justin Fargas (bruised leg, turf toe) and Tyrone Wheatley (shoulder) are still uncertain for Sunday's game and are still limited in practice.


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