ALAMEDA – The Raiders initially hoped against hope that tight end Lee Smith could return this season. Turned out that was a pipe dream.
Smith was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday afternoon. Fellow tight end Ryan O’Malley was promoted from the practice squad in a corresponding move.
Smith needed surgery on a fractured bone in his lower leg, an injury sustained during Sunday’s win at Baltimore. Smith caught a pass in the flat, and Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith hit him low and the big tight end fell awkwardly to the turf.
He need help getting off the field, was carted from the sideline and left for Oakland on crutches.
Head coach Jack Del Rio feared Smith was done for the season, but said Monday he wanted results from procedures done before making that call.
Smith was primarily a blocking tight end, someone who helped immensely in the running game and at times in pass protection. He was also a team leader, especially on offense.
“(We’ll miss him) not just because of the kind of player he is, but the type of person he is,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Everybody in the locker room loves Lee and, if you’re going to walk down a dark alley, he’s one of the top three people you’re taking. He’ll fight for every single person on this team and will do anything he can to make sure you’re okay.”
The Raiders will replace Smith with a few different people, but O’Malley should take the bulk of his blocking work. O’Malley is able bodied, standing 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds. The undrafted rookie played at Penn, where he was also a productive receiver.
O’Malley was signed to the practice squad after being part of the team’s final cuts.
In other transactions, the Raiders signed linebackers Tyrell Adams and Darnell Sankey to the practice squad.