Lechler's injury opens door for Stemke

Shane Lechler has resumed practicing but he's still not ready to kick in games, thus it appears the Raiders will be forced to keep punter Kevin Stemke on their 53-man regular season roster.

Stemke has kicked extremely well with Oakland, averaging 44.4 yards a punt since signing with the Raiders three weeks ago to take over for the injured Lechler.

''I'm hanging on,'' Stemke said with a laugh Saturday, less than 24 hours before NFL deadline for teams to announce their final rosters. ''When I first heard I was coming here, they said (I'd be here) one game, possibly two. Now I'm living on borrowed time.''

Lechler hasn't responded to treatment as quickly as the Raiders hoped. He had his most extensive workout Saturday, punting some 25 balls during Oakland's practice. But head coach Bill Callahan said it appears the team will have to go into the regular season without their All-Pro punter.

''(Lechler is) nowhere close to his capability,'' said Callahan. ''He's still not getting his distance and his hang times.''


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