Assessing the Health of the Raiders at the Midway Point

Running back Latavius Murray and wide receiver Amari Cooper were back on the practice field after missing yesterday's session as the Raiders battle through a recent spate of injuries as they get ready to host the Minnesota Vikings.

No one in the National Football League is going to give you sympathy if one of your key players goes down with an injury. You just hope you don't lose your team's MVP. Every team in the league has to deal with injuries. Whether it's one play, one week or for the season, players in this game get banged up.

The Oakland Raiders have been fortunate to be relatively healthy as a team this season. Although we're all still trying to figure out how safety Charles Woodson manages to McGyver himself together each week and impersonate Superman, the 18-year vet is still sacrificing his body week in and week out. Fellow defensive back TJ Carrie, who was moved to safety to try to shore up the position, has battled a host of injuries this season, including shoulder and hip issues that kept him out of last week's game at Pittsburgh.

Signed as a free agent in March, safety Nate Allen came over from Philadelphia and was supposed to be paired with Woodson and give the Raiders a formidable safety tandem. However, after an impressive preseason, Allen suffered a knee injury in the Raiders season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Fortunately, the injury didn't require surgery and Allen returned to practice October 27.

Allen's return means Carrie can return to his natural position and strengthens the secondary as a whole.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., is excited to have Allen back in the mix.

"Having Nate Allen back really strengthens our secondary, makes us better in every way and we welcome him with open arms," Coach Norton said.

Coach Norton also expressed that the experience Carrie gained at safety has made him a better football player.

"It makes him more versatile. I think he understands the game not just from a corner standpoint, now from being a safety standpoint, seeing the whole field as opposed to just seeing a side of the field," Coach Norton said. "He's involved in the run game as a safety, as opposed to not as a corner. So he's learned a lot about football. I think he's a better football player because of it."

Both Allen and Carrie are expected to play this Sunday.

The offensive unit took a few hits Sunday in Pittsburgh as well, as running back Latavius Murray suffered a concussion and starting center Rodney Hudson went down with an ankle injury. The Raiders expect to employ a running back by committee approach if Murray can't go Sunday against the Vikings.

All five backs on the Raiders active roster have scored at least one touchdown this season either on the ground or through the air. The fullbacks have also proven to be capable out of the tailback spot. Marcel Reece has taken on the role numerous times during his career, and Jamize Olawale, most recently with a 19-yard touchdown burst last week, has shown he can carry the ball as a lead back.

After sitting out Wednesday's session, Murray practiced Thursday on a limited basis, but center Rodney Hudson did not participate.    

Converted guard Tony Bergstrom made the 2015 squad as the backup center and was thrust into action last Sunday and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave says that Bergstrom did well given the situation.

"Tony [Bergstrom] I believe played 16 plays last week. He came in of course with minimal preparation time, which happens during the week," Coach Musgrave said. "Stepped in and did a fine job for us. We'll have to see how it goes this week. We have a couple spots where guys are going to have to step up and come through for us and we're counting on them."

Rookie linebacker Neiron Ball, who was coming on, suffered a knee injury a few weeks ago. He's another player the Raiders could use back on the field. The timetable for his return is unclear. NFL teams build their rosters with backups and depth in mind. Just as the Raiders get a couple guys back on one side of the ball, the depth on the other side is tested. As any coach in the NFL will tell you – next man up.

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