Injured Raiders progressing towards opener

Injured center Jake Grove is making considerable progress from his shoulder injury but the Raiders are leaning toward keeping him out of Oakland's season-opening game against San Diego, head coach Art Shell said Monday.

Grove, who was expected to be sidelined up to four weeks after suffering a shoulder strain during the final week of training camp, took part in some individual drills and did some light team work as the Raiders prepared to play the Chargers. ''We're gradually getting him involved,'' Shell said. ''He's not feeling any pain, at least that's what he's telling us.''

On Sunday, Grove told Silver and Black Illustrated that he was leaning toward taking an extra week to heal but was anxious to get in. Shell agreed, but held off ruling Grove out against San Diego.

''I don't what the reason, why, in the history of doing this stuff, if a guy is supposed to be ready to go this week, most of the time you hold him another week just as precaution,'' Shell said.

''You want your guys out there but you've got to be smart and understand this is just the first game of the regular season and you've got 15 more after that. So you can't do something that's going to hurt you in the long run.''

Even without Grove, the Raiders offensive line figures to get a boost with the expected return of left guard Barry Sims, who missed the final two preseason games with an elbow injury.

''Nothing's ever easy but Jake and I are both working hard to get back out there,'' Sims said Monday. ''I don't feel like I've fallen off that much.''

* Quarterback Aaron Brooks admitted he was caught off guard by the news that wide receiver Doug Gabriel was traded to New England on Sunday.

''There was a moment of silence, you know what I'm saying?'' Brooks said with a laugh. ''He's going to be missed. I wish he was here. I can tell you this, we're going to miss Doug. Doug was a very reliable receiver. We've just got to find ways to make (the other receivers) feel a lot more comfortable in their roles ... so we can take a little pressure off Randy (Moss).''

* Wide receiver Alvis Whitted declared himself healed from a groin injury and said he fully expects to play against San Diego. Whitted had not practiced since before Oakland's preseason game against San Francisco on Aug. 20 but ran sprints Monday and expects to practice when the team resumes workouts on Wednesday.

* The Raiders signed six players to the practice squad, including wide receiver Will Buchanon who was one of the top young players in training camp. Also added to Oakland's practice squad were tight end Derek Miller, wide receiver Burl Toler, linebacker Ricky Brown, center Chris Morris and defensive end Bryant McNeal.

* Linebacker Robert Thomas has changed his jersey number from 58 to 55, the one formerly worn by Danny Clark. Tight end James Adkisson has switched from 47 to 88 while tight end John Madsen is going from 10 to 85, Gabriel's old number.

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