Walker still sidelined but vows to play

Javon Walker sat out his second straight day of practice with a tender hamstring but has no doubt he'll be on the field for Monday night's season opener against the Denver Broncos. That's a good sign for the Raiders, who need all the healthy receivers they can get.

Walker suffered a slight hamstring pull during a team workout Sunday and has not returned to practice since, forcing the Raiders to scramble for a replacement. With Drew Carter already lost for the entire season, Oakland has had to turn to the likes of untested Todd Watkins, rookie Chaz Schilens and recently signed veteran Ashley Lelie.

Walker, however, made it clear he has no intention of sitting out the season-opener with his new team, especially since the game is against his former team.

"All my best friends are on the team so it'll actually be a fun game," Walker said Thursday. "It's just a category of we just need to win games, so (do) anything possible to be out there and play. I always make sure and take pride in getting myself ready. The trainers do that, too. I feel good. I was out there today running around and doing what they say do."

Walker has battled injuries and weight issues ever since signing with Oakland as a free agent in the offseason. He has been frequently criticized by head coach Lane Kiffin and has yet to develop much of an on-field chemistry with second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

That's left Kiffin still wondering how much of an impact the 6-foot-3, 215-pound veteran can have on Oakland's offense.

"I've never been in a real game with him so I don't know if I can answer that," Kiffin said. "He did have a good game, a good half, in Week 3 of the preseason. He didn't have a catch leading up to that and now he's injured again so it'd be hard for me to speculate on that."

In the meantime the Raiders have had to delve deep into their roster for help. Watkins, coming off a strong training camp, has taken reps with Oakland's starting offense in Walker's absence. The team is also taking a look at Schilens, their seventh-round draft pick.

"We're giving a number of guys chances," Kiffin said. "Ashley is out there, Tood Watkins we've put over there and we've also put Chaz over there. All three of them are getting reps and we'll see how they go throughout the week. We'll see if Javon's available and make a decision as we get closer."

Whoever plays will have to deal with two of the league's top cornerbacks in Champ Bailey and Dre Bly. They'll also have to do plenty of downfield blocking as the Raiders intend to run the ball as much as possible against the Broncos.

"They play with a technique where they're looking at the quarterback as the play is snapped so that they can crash in on running plays," Watkins said. "We're going to have to focus on making our blocks downfield to spring our backs for big runs."

· Defensive end Kalimba Edwards was also held out of practice with a sore groin. Like Walker, Edwards is expected to be available against Denver.

If he cannot play the Raiders will turn to rookie Trevor Scott to handle the pass-rushing downs or let Jay Richardson stay on the field. Normally Richardson handles the running downs but leaves in passing situations.

· Reserve safety Rashard Baker was limited in practice due to a sore ankle.

· Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan thinks too much is being made of the Raiders' problems defending the run. Oakland finished 31st against the run in 2007 and hasn't finished higher than 22nd since 2002.

"Stats, you can do anything you want with them," Ryan said. "If you get leads, obviously, you're going to face more passing game. We haven't had that luxury around here lately. As always every year, we're making a big emphasis on stopping everything they do, run and pass. We've got players we're making more responsible for their gaps. We've got real good tacklers in the secondary that's going to help. Our linebackers are coming on.

"With (Denver), obviously, you have a team that's committed to running the football. Every year they open up the season with a 100-yard rusher. We've heard all that. We're just ready to play."

Ryan also said there's not much debate in his eyes when it comes to which team has the best cornerback tandem. Oakland has Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall while Denver counters with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly.

In Ryan's opinion, the Raiders have the clear-cut edge.

"I think so and, really the best trio if you throw Stanford Routt in there, too," Ryan said. "We're going to prove it Monday night."

· Kiffin expressed surprise at the news of Daunte Culpepper's retirement. Culpepper played with the Raiders last season and started five games.

"The thing about Daunte was he was a fabulous competitor," Kiffin said. "He competed as hard as anybody on our field and that's unusual for a quarterback. Usually that's your fullback or your middle linebacker or one of your tougher linemen. But he was a dynamic competitor and I think JaMarcus (Russell) learned that from him. The way that he came out here every day and he was on the receivers and staying after, running, throwing … I'm surprised he's not playing somewhere because I think in the right system, Daunte could throw for a lot of yards and lot of touchdowns."

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