When the Oakland Raiders take the field Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, 23 players will be wearing uniqu handmade cleats in support of the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats program.
During Week 13, the Raiders – as well as players all across the NFL – have the opportunity to wear custom cleats representing causes they feel passionately about, and 23 Raiders, including tackle Austin Howard, have taken advantage of the opportunity.
And for the veteran tackle, his cause hits close to home.
"I chose *My Cause, My Cleats *to be about focus on Lupus," said Howard. "The reasons for that is because I have family members who have been diagnosed with that disease, primarily my mother, who has dealt with Lupus and other autoimmune diseases."
Raiders players will be representing a variety of causes on their cleats in Sunday's afternoon against the Buffalo Bills, ranging from domestic violence awareness to Alzheimer's, and for Howard, the personal nature of his connection to his cause makes Sunday's opportunity all the more rewarding.
"It means a lot to me to be go out there and to be able to bring awareness to this because it's not a really well-known disease that a lot of people don't know a lot about," Howard explained. "It brings more attention to the issues that these people go through, and the help that others can provide by donating or doing whatever they can to make sure that we can get a handle on this disease."
Oftentimes fans or people outside the league think of NFL players as just that, football players, but with the platform that the *My Cause, My Cleats *program provides this weekend, Howard is hopeful that people will see that for many of these players, there is more to them than just a helmet and a pair of shoulder pads.
"Like I've said, it gives us that person to touch, it allows people to get into our personal lives," Howard said. "People know us as Raiders players, as teammates, or for what we do on the field, but this is one instance we get a chance to express things that mean a lot to us personally, and things that do affect us that many wouldn't know about. We appreciate the league doing that for us, and it's a great opportunity for us to get out there and speak our minds."
Not to mention, the cleats look pretty cool too.
"They look pretty sweet," Howard added with a smile. "I think a lot of guys had some pretty cool designs on them, for sure. "We want to get this win, but we also want to bring awareness to things that mean a lot to us personally. It's a doubleheader for us. I'm really looking forward to it."
Cornerback – David Amerson – Knee – Limited – Questionable
Linebacker – Shilique Calhoun – Knee – Did not participate – Out
Wide Receiver – Derek Carr – Ankle – Limited – Questionable
Cornerback – DJ Hayden – Hamstring – Did not participate – Out
Center – Rodney Hudson – Knee – Limited – Questionable
Defensive Tackle – Darius Latham – Ankle – Did not participate – Out
Defensive Tackle – Stacy McGee – Ankle – Did not participate – Out
Running Back – Latavius Murray – Ankle – Limited – Questionable
Guard/Tackle – Kelechi Osemele – Knee – Limited – Questionable
Linebacker – Perry Riley, Jr. – Hamstring – Limited – Questionable
Linebacker – Malcolm Smith – Hamstring – Limited – Questionable
-Following the day's Fast Friday session, Head Coach Jack Del Rio announced that cornerback DJ Hayden would likely be placed on Injured Reserve, effectively ending his 2016 season.
"DJ [Hayden], will likely move onto I.R. at some point," Head Coach Del Rio said. "He's got a substantial hamstring, so he's not going to be returning this year for us. That was a big blow."
-Hayden wasn't the only Raiders ruled out of Sunday's matchup with the Bills though, as linebacker Shilique Calhoun, as well as defensive tackles Darius Latham and Stacy McGee will not be able to go in the team's Week 13 bout with the Bills.
-Also, no need to worry Raider Nation; after being listed as a full participant in both Wednesday and Thursday's practice, quarterback Derek Carr came off the injury report Friday.
-The PAC-12 Championship game is being held tonight at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara between the University of Washington and the University of Colorado.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., but that didn't stop wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (Washington) and Quality Control – Offense Nick Holz (Colorado) from partaking in some playful banter during Friday's afternoon practice.
With Hayden out, Head Coach Del Rio has complete confidence in TJ Carrie to step up and fill the void left by No. 25:
"He's been a pro all year. He's really been good. He played, obviously, a lot bigger role last year. He's prepared at all times to go in and play. We have a lot of confidence in TJ."
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