Raiders find starter from within

The Raiders spent two draft picks this year trying to find a complementary defensive end to partner with Pro Bowler Derrick Burgess. Turns out, the player they needed all along was already on their roster.

Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, who spent the last two seasons splitting time between tackle and end, will be Oakland's starting right defensive end for the team's season-opener against Detroit on Sept. 9.

"He's one of our best four defensive linemen and we want to get our four best guys in the field at the same time," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said after making the announcement Monday. "He's a very productive guy that can play three spots. He can play end, he can play nose, he can play three. He's definitely solidified himself as one of our four best guys, so we've got to get him on the field."

Oakland spent its third-round pick on Quentin Moses and a fifth-rounder on Jay Richardson, hoping one of the two could take some of the focus and pressure off Burgess. Burgess has 27 sacks over his last two seasons despite being frequently double-teamed.

The Raiders also added veteran free agent Chris Clemons to the group. Clemons, Moses and Richardson all played well at times during training camp and in preseason games but none of the three distanced himself from the pack.

Kiffin pointed to the presence of Terdell Sands on the roster as one of the reasons the team moved Kelly to end. Oakland also traded for veteran defensive tackle Gerard Warren, a former first-round draft pick, last week.

Kelly will still see time inside, though his primary position will remain at defensive end.

Other notes from practice Monday:

* Center Jeremy Newberry returned to practice after sitting out Sunday's session. Newberry and Jake Grove are still locked in a battle for the starting job and Kiffin likely won't name a winner until next week.

* Wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins also was back on the field after being taken a hospital on Monday for a pain in his side. Kiffin didn't say what doctors discovered other than to say Higgins was fine.

* Safety Donovin Darius (leg) still is not practicing and might not play against Seattle on Thursday.

SB Report Top Stories