ALAMEDA, Calif. — Derek Carr understands there’s risk in involved in returning to the field so soon after fracturing a bone in his back.
Carr also knows the Oakland Raiders are 2-3, having lost three straight games, and that his team needs him.
“The thing that pushed me to want to play is I wanted to win,” Carr said Wednesday as the Raiders began preparations to host the Los Angeles Chargers. “I wanted to show my teammates and my coaches that no matter what, I’m going to do anything I can for my team, to show our city and our organization that it doesn’t matter what happens, I’m going to do everything I can to be out there.”
Carr sustained a fractured transverse process in his back on Oct. 1 in a 16-10 loss to Denver. He sat out a 30-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens with EJ Manuel starting at quarterback, the Raiders’ third loss in a row.
But not before pushing head coach Jack Del Rio about the possibility of playing.
“I was ready to play last week in my head,” Carr said. “I think that’s how I always think. We’ll let the coach make that decision. My job is to show up every day. Nothing changes for us. I just have to go out and practice hard, show him I’m ready.”
At one point during the Ravens loss, Manuel took a vicious shot in the back on a sack. Carr was asked about the play and the risk associated with playing and cited his own experiences with broken bones.
“You know, I think any time you take a hit like that there’s always a chance for anything,” Carr said. “There’s the risk that we take every time we take the field. It’s a violent game we play. More violent than people realize watching on TV. You could get hit. You could break your ankle, too. You could break your finger.”
Del Rio said Carr would be watched closely during the week, but anticipated the quarterback would be ready to go.
“We have to make good decisions, sound decisions, for the quarterback,” Del Rio said. “Nothing changes. If the doctors give him the green light and he’s prepared to play and protect himself, then he’s going to go.”
Of concern other than Carr’s health is the fact that he wasn’t playing up to his 2016 standard before he was injured. He was 19 of 31 for 118 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 27-10 loss to Washington, and then 10 of 18 for 143 yards against Denver – with 64 of those yards coming on a single touchdown pass to Johnny Holton.
“You look back at Washington and felt that was an anomaly,” Carr said. “Then you look at the Denver game and we did some good things against a real good defense. We had a chance to win; against that defense all you can ask for is a chance.”
The challenge against the Chargers will be pain tolerance.
“I mean, it just hurts,” Carr said. “There’s really nothing much more to it. It’s not like, ‘Oh, man, if I take a hit, I’m worried.’ It’s not a worry. It’s just one of those things you deal with. Just like everybody in the NFL right now.”
SERIES HISTORY: 115th regular-season meeting, Raiders lead series, 62-50-2 and have won the last four meetings. The Raiders won the last meeting 19-16 at Qualcomm Stadium as Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals and Derek Carr threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. The Raiders won the last meeting in Oakland 34-31 with Carr completing 25 of 40 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns and Amari Cooper had six catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. Chargers last win was Nov. 16, 2014 in San Diego, prevailing 13-6 with the Raiders falling to 0-10. They would win their next game against Kansas City and finish 3-13.
–A big problem for the Raiders has been getting off to slow starts, having been outscored 38-17 in the first quarter. Over the last three games, that margin is 31-3.
“We’re so uptight,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “We expected to have a different start to these first five games. I think we need to take a deep breath and relax. We’re so on edge. We don’t want to make a mistake. We just want everything to be perfect, and in this game, it’s not going to be that way.”
–Cornerback Demetrius McCray, who last played in 2015 for Jacksonville, was signed as the Raiders battle depth issues at cornerback.
Starting cornerback David Amerson missed the Baltimore game with concussion symptoms and Gareon Conley has been inactive the last two games with a shin injury.
Antonio Hamilton was the latest casualty with a knee injury. The position is so thin that Sean Smith, who has struggled all season, can’t be taken from the lineup.
McCray went through training camp with Seattle before being put on injured reserve and then getting an injury settlement to become a free agent.
“I tried to keep an open mind to all teams, but (when I) saw the injuries I had a good idea I’d be a Raider,” McCray said.
–The protracted slump of wide receiver Amari Cooper isn’t because the wide receiver is failing to get open, according to head coach Jack Del Rio.
“I saw five wide-open (looks), shook his guy, was open in space,” Del Rio said. “I would have loved to see that ball get to him delivered there. Not every play is designed to go to him. You can’t see everybody at one time.
“Sometimes you start your read somewhere else and you don’t make it back for whatever reason. He was doing his part to create space and opportunity for the quarterback. We just missed him.”
Cooper confirmed he was indeed open, but has no plans to campaign for some extra looks.
“The ball will find me,” Cooper said.
–Probably most galling to the Raiders in their three-game losing streak is that they’ve been out-muscled for the most part at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Both Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie are firm believers in being bigger and stronger at the point of attack.
That was most definitely the case against Washington, and, surprisingly, against Baltimore.
“I thought they were better than us in the trenches,” Del Rio said. “They were a little more physical, which is unusual. We have really good offensive and defensive lines, but they were more physical.
“We lean on our trenches. I thought our linebackers and D-linemen, their offensive line got the best of us. Our offensive line gave some sacks. We generated some run game, but I don’t think we’re playing quite to the level we expect. That’s the core of what we’re going to be.”
–North Bay wildfires made the air quality so poor Wednesday that practice was cut short with no individual drills.
A series of fires have burned 42,000 acres with 21 deaths and hundreds missing. Cliff Branch, the former Raiders wide receiver, lost his home of 22 years to the fire in Santa Rosa.
The fires brought out a sense of perspective in Derek Carr, who spent his press session mostly talking about his back injury and the Raiders’ struggles.
“That kind of stuff, that’s real life,” Carr said. “That’s hard. Being 2-3 is not hard when you really think about it. Doing that kind of stuff, that’s really hard. Our prayers are with them that they can have peace and encouragement.”
NOTES: LB Cory James did not practice with a knee injury and his status is uncertain for the Chargers. … LB Marquel Lee did not practice with an ankle injury and his status is uncertain for the Chargers. … CB Gareon Conley did not practice with a shin injury and his status is uncertain for the Chargers. … FB Jamize Olawale did not practice and is in concussion protocol. … CB David Amerson was limited with a shoulder injury and has cleared concussion protocol. … TE Lee Smith did not participate in practice with a knee injury.