Mind you, the season is not quite to the extent of 2003, when only one player on the offensive line, left tackle Barry Sims, started all 16 games at the same position. The Oakland Raiders (2-5) have dropped four straight games and face the San Diego Chargers on the road Sunday. Left guard Frank Middleton has been sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn quadriceps tendon. The injury took place in Sunday's 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The injury comes at a time when Oakland's line appeared to make some progress. Despite the loss to the Saints, quarterback Kerry Collins, who passed for 350 yards, had ample time to throw as the line allowed nary a sack for the first time this season.
With Middleton out of the lineup, the Raiders hope that right guard Ron Stone returns from a strained left knee this week but he remains listed as "doubtful." If healthy, Stone would play right guard, moving Brad Badger to the left guard spot to replace Middleton. Without Stone, who has missed Oakland's past three games, Chad Slaughter could play left guard.
"We're a little encouraged," Oakland center Adam Treu said. "You're always disappointed after a loss. Bad things happened at the wrong times. We have a team of veterans and a team of young guys. We'll keep shoveling the stuff and keep working."
How soon Stone returns is still open to wonder but Badger figures to remain in the lineup somewhere assuming he stays healthy. Badger is an eighth-year veteran who played in just seven games in 2002 when the Raiders reached the Super Bowl but injuries pressed him into starting 11 games last season.
"First of all, you feel bad about Frank getting injured but I look forward to the opportunity to play and I'm excited about it," Badger said.
Another area the Raiders miss Middleton is his leadership. Middleton's personality is such that other players notice.
"Frank's a great teammate," Badger said. "He's always out there having a great time, laughing and working hard. We're going to miss him. I'm going to come in and try to replace him as best I can. He sets a certain tone and attitude. It's good to have around."
The Raiders have two open roster spots, but have yet to place Middleton and rookie WR Carlos Francis (torn ACL in his left knee) on injured reserve.?
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org