Raiders

Hamilton's return may mean end of era for Raiders legend

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USATSI

Hamilton's return may mean end of era for Raiders legend

ALAMEDA – The Raiders only have two designations to return off injured reserve. They used one on Obi Melifonwu in Week 6. Antonio Hamilton got the other on Tuesday.

That means kicker Sebastian Janikowski won’t return this season from a back injury. There’s a real possibility 39-year old won’t play for the Raiders again.

His contract expires at season’s end, which might mean he's played his last down in silver and black. Janikowski is scheduled to hit the open market, and could play for another team for the first time since the Raiders selected him No. 17 overall in the 2000 draft.

That would mark the end of an era. We’re not there yet, but the Raiders could go younger and considerably cheaper after paying Janikowski $17.85 million since 2013. Janikowski renegotiated the last year of his deal to include $3 million guaranteed, an action executed just before he went on IR.

They have been pleased with Girogio Tavecchio this season, who stepped right in before Week 1 as Janikowski’s replacement. The Cal product, who spent four straight offseasons with the Raiders, is 12-for-15 this season with three field goals over 50 yards. Tavecchio has missed three extra point attempts this season. Tavecchio will be cheap, even as an exclusive rights free agent.

Hamilton still has a few weeks before he can contribute. Tuesday's return to practice opens a two-to-three week window for him to re-join the 53-man roster.  

That’s a positive sign for an ailing group of defensive backs. David Amerson announced another one, saying he’ll return to practice Wednesday.

Hamilton was placed on IR after tearing the meniscus in his knee on the opening kickoff versus Baltimore. He has been doing side work, but will join regular practice in hopes of a late-season return.

Future in question, Raiders need hyphy Marshawn in final home game of 2017

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AP

Future in question, Raiders need hyphy Marshawn in final home game of 2017

OAKLAND – Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington were headed for the field when Marshawn Lynch held them back. The young Raiders running backs weren’t sure why their position group’s elder statesman would do so, especially before starters were announced to the Oakland Coliseum crowd.

Lynch wanted Richard and Washington to run out with him. Questions ran rapid fire through Richard’s mind: Are you sure you want company? This was, after all, the proud Oakland native’s homecoming game. Won’t that mess up your big moment in the sun? Is this even allowed?

Lynch wasn’t worried about any of that. Lynch rolled three deep into the Week 2 home opener against the New York Jets, flanked by young protégés he has advised all year. His big moment was theirs, too.

”That was my first time going through the tunnel,” Richard said. “The first time, I didn’t think they were going to let us do that. But Marshawn said it was fine, and brought us with him. It’s a different feeling running out the tunnel all three of us, through the smoke and onto the field. It lets you know you’re in the league.”

That was a true Marshawn moment. So was a tackle-breaking touchdown run during the game, and when the scoreboard broadcast him getting hyphy on the sideline. The entire stadium partied with him that day, his first regular-season game as a Raider at Oakland Coliseum.

Lynch has brought Washington and Richard with him each time he comes out of the tunnel, a moment when the hometown crowd praises their favorite son.

“You definitely feel the energy,” Washington said. “He’s a hometown guy. Marshawn wears this city on his back. There’s a roar when they announce his name. It’s been a fun experience throughout the year.”

Sunday night's clash with the Dallas Cowboys is the final home game this season, unless, of course, the AFC West completely and shockingly turns on its ear and the Raiders host a playoff game.

That fact begs this question: Will Sunday be the last time Marshawn plays in Oakland?

The answer remains uncertain, with several factors at play.

Lynch remains under contract next season, with a $4 million base salary and incentives and bonuses that could pay an additional $2 million. None of that money is guaranteed, so the Raiders could cut him without dead money attached.

Lynch could also retire like he did right after Super Bowl 50. He didn’t miss the game in a year away from it, and the enigmatic personality may decide one season in Oakland was enough. He came back to show kids in the community he champions firsthand that someone from their neighborhood could bring attention to Oakland before the Raiders leave. Will an encore season further that goal?

The Raiders signed Lynch for two reasons: to boost their backfield and offer an olive branch to Oakland after being approved to relocate to Las Vegas. The Raiders won’t move until 2020, and having Oakland’s most popular person in Silver and Black helps keep butts in the seats.

He has practiced all year save a few rest days and has been a quality locker room presence, though he rubbed some the wrong way getting ejected and then suspended for defending good friend and rival Kansas City Chief Marcus Peters in an on-field scuffle. Coach Jack Del Rio said he practiced and played with extra zest after serving a one-game suspension. Stats bear that out.

His production lulled before midseason – he struggled to meld with the Raiders scheme and offensive line – but has picked up that pace significantly in the second half.

Lynch had 100-plus yards from scrimmage in two home games preceding last week’s loss in Kansas City, where he had 64 yards on eight touches.

He has averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and his 2.68 yards per carry after contact ranks sixth in the league. Lynch still has it at age 31, and might hit the ground running next season behind a familiar line.

That’s then. The Raiders still need him now, against a No. 11-ranked Cowboys run defense. Local fans would love to see him succeed in person one more time this year, which might mark the end or the halfway point of his tenure playing for the Raiders in Oakland Coliseum.

Secondary takes another hit; injury updates for two key Raiders

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AP

Secondary takes another hit; injury updates for two key Raiders

ALAMEDA – The Raiders secondary has been beset by injuries this season. An already shaky crew never really had first-round pick Gareon Conley, who played two games due to a shin injury and is on injured reserve.

Even he did more than Obi Melifonwu. The second-round safety was active for five games but played just 34 defensive snaps. He won’t play another this season.

Melifonwu had surgery to repair an injured hip on Thursday, and was placed on season-ending injured reserve Friday afternoon. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton was called up in a corresponding move.

This is Melifonwu’s second IR stint this season. He spent the season’s first half on IR following knee surgery, but was designated to return. Melifonwu never played his natural position. The Raiders used him at cornerback, a desperate experiment that failed in a Week 11 loss to New England and barely played after that.

Injury may have played a part in that.

“I can’t tell you exactly when that occurred,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think it’s been a little bit that he’s been working with. It required surgery and he had it, so he’ll be out.”

Injuries ran deeper than the draft class.

Top cover man David Amerson has missed six straight games with a foot sprain, and remains doubtful for Sunday night’s clash against the Dallas Cowboys. That absence stings, especially with the secondary working without the young bucks.

Expect Sean Smith, TJ Carrie and Dexter McDonald to maintain their posts at cornerback.

“Those guys have done a good job in a tough spot,” Hamilton said. “They’ve stayed healthy and available for us. That has been key.”

Hamilton tore the meniscus in his knee in a Week 4 loss at Denver and is healthy and ready to contribute.

The NFL’s No. 25-ranked pass defense must make do with what they’ve got down the stretch. There’s some hope Amerson will return, even after being removed from practice the past few days. He performed side work with a trainer Friday right next to the media area, and continues to work on a return despite having so few games left.

Cooper could come back: Raiders receiver Amari Cooper re-injured his sprained ankle in a loss at Kansas City and was ruled out for the Cowboys game. It might not, however, keep him out the rest of the season.

“I think he’s better than he was, but he’s going to be out this week,” Del Rio said. “I think we have a chance to get him back.”