Higgins out as kickoff returner

Interim head coach Tom Cable continued to shake up the Raiders' lineup Friday, benching kickoff returner Johnnie Lee Higgins and replacing him with rookie Tyvon Branch in a move that had been expected.

Higgins fell into the doghouse during last week's 29-10 loss to Baltimore when he took a kickoff late in the second half and stepped out of bounds at the Raiders' own 2-yard line rather than letting the ball go into the end zone or out of bounds.

Cable later criticized Higgins and said the second-year player "lost his focus." Now Higgins has lost his job, or at least one of them.

While Branch is penciled in to handle the kickoff return chores against Atlanta on Sunday, Higgins will remain the Raiders punt returner. Branch, Oakland's fourth-round draft pick, is averaging 14.6 yards on kickoff returns but has had only five attempts. Higgins, before his gaffe against the Ravens, was averaging 23.6 yards.

Branch avoided pulling double duty against the Falcons when strong safety Gibril Wilson returned to practice. Wilson had missed the past two workouts with a toe injury but was able to work out with the rest of the team Friday.

The news isn't as encouraging for Oakland's other injured players. Running back Darren McFadden (turf toe), defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps), linebacker Ricky Brown (groin) and special team player Jon Alston (foot) did not practice and are listed as doubtful against the Falcons.

In one other item, The Sporting News announced it's midseason All-Pro team and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was the only Raiders player selected. No shock there. He's been among the game's elite for the past several years and is the lone constant bright spot the team has had this season.

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