San Diego Chargers

Nicholas Morrow's role will increase with Raiders MLB Lee out

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USATSI

Nicholas Morrow's role will increase with Raiders MLB Lee out

ALAMEDA – The Raiders lost both starting inside linebackers to injury against Baltimore.

Cory James missed the second half with a knee injury. Marquel Lee went down late with an ankle sprain.

They’ll get James back in time to host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon. Lee, however, isn’t ready. He was ruled out Friday afternoon on the team’s official injury report, leaving an already young, thin and undersized position group down a man.

Someone has to step up. Nicholas Morrow is that guy.

The undrafted rookie is expected to start in Lee’s place, and could end up a three-down linebacker against the Chargers.

Morrow typically plays significant snaps, entering in sub packages as a coverage linebacker. He’ll be asked to do more against L.A.

While it’s a new challenge, Morrow is ready for it.

“It’s a bit more defense to learn. I’m generally involved in the sub package, but I’ve been preparing to play in the base defense all summer,” Morrow said. “This week’s more of a refresher than it is learning something new.”

James has been coming in early and staying late getting physically ready for this pivotal Chargers game. The second-year pro had arthroscopic knee surgery this preseason but was able to return in time to start games that count, and has been a three-down linebacker on the weak side. He’s second on the team with 34 tackles, and has a forced fumble to his credit.

Losing James for any stretch would be a significant blow considering how young and thin the Raiders are on the inside, but he’s expected to rebound and play without restraint.

James needs a partner in the base defense with Lee out – the rookie’s a better run defender than you think -- and Morrow will get first crack at the job. Rookie Xavier Woodson-Luster, who has focused on special teams, can play there as well.

“Nick has been doing what he’s supposed to do, doing everything he can to be ready,” James said. “All the guys in the locker room have faith in guys stepping up with Marquel out right now, and believe they can get the job done.”

Morrow’s size may give some fans pause. The Greenville College alum is but 216 pounds, viewed more as a hybrid linebacker/defensive back. Lee, by contrast, is prototypical linebacker at 235.

Morrow and others must handle the run, especially dealing with often productive Chargers back Melvin Gordon.

He feels up to the task, despite being smaller than your standard linebacker.

“Regardless of size, you have to know your run fits and play with smart technique,” Morrow said. “If you do that and play with heart, you’re going to be fine.”

Carr taken off injury report

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will start Sunday’s game against the Chargers, as expected. He was a full participant in Friday’s light practice and was formally taken off the team’s injury report.

There was no doubt Carr would play, even after being limited in Wednesday and Thursday practices. He was given a green light by trainers heading into Week 6, and will return two weeks after suffering a transverse process fracture in his back.

“He’ll be ready to play,” Del Rio said. “I think it was smart to give him the week, which we did. Even though he was pushing for last week. He’s cleared to go and got the green light. Doctors and trainers all gave him the go. He had a full week of practice for the most part, so we’re ready to go.”

Melifonwu nearing return

Raiders second-round safety Obi Melifonwu is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Del Rio said there’s a “strong likelihood,” he’ll be ready for activation soon.

Melifonwu can practice after the Chargers game and play after playing the Buffalo Bills in Week 8. He could meet both deadlines.

He’s expected to practice next week, and might be ready to contribute when eligible.

The Radiers can designate two players to return off IR. Offensive lineman Denver Krikland is another candidate, though Del Rio didn’t address the second-year pro directly in his Friday comments. Kirkland said last month that he’ll be ready to return this season.

Melifonwu could help the Raiders cover tight ends and running backs in the sub package.

Injury report

The Raiders ruled Lee, fullback Jamize Olawale (concussion), cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton (knee) and Gareon Conley (shin) out of the Chargers clash.

James, cornerback David Amerson (shoulder) and running back DeAndre Washington (hamstring) were designated questionable on the team’s official injury report.

Air quality concerns leave NFL considering alternate sites for Raiders game

Air quality concerns leave NFL considering alternate sites for Raiders game

ALAMEDA – Air quality around the Bay Area hasn’t been good.

Smoke and particulates emanating from the wildfires raging through Napa and Sonoma Counties has created what the Enviornmental Protection Agency considers “unhealthy’ conditions in several parts of the region south of the fire sites.

While these air-quality issues don’t in any way compare to fires affecting residents in the North Bay – at least 29 people have died, with hundreds more missing -- they could impact Sunday afternoon’s football game between the Raiders and Chargers at Oakland Coliseum.

The game game remains set to play as scheduled. For now, at least.

“We continue to monitor air quality conditions in the Bay Area and are in close communication with both the NFL and Chargers, as well as local authorities,” the Raiders said in a statement. “At this point, the game remains scheduled for Sunday in Oakland.”

The NFL echoed that sentiment earlier in the day, though they are exploring alternate sites.

The Raiders don't want to change the date or the site. They'd prefer to stay put, especially considering they've already lost a home game to Mexico City. They play the New England Patriots there in Week 9. 

Enviornmental factors, however, may force the Raiders hand. 

They have a few options, none of them ideal.

The 49ers are on the road this week, leaving Levi’s Stadium  open as an alternative. A league source NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that the NFL has reached out about the prospect of using the Santa Clara venue That would avoid travel stresses accompanied by leaving the market. The problem: that stadium is 33 miles south of Oakland Coliseum, and the air quality there hasn’t been much better than near the Raiders home field.

The Los Angeles Rams are on the road, leaving L.A. Coliseum available as well. San Diego mayor Kevin Falcouner offered to host the game at the venue formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium. The NFL might want to avoid putting the Raiders in their old haunts – the played at the L.A. Coliseum from 1982-94 – or bring the Chargers back to a still-angry San Diego market they left a few months ago.

The Raiders and Chargers can’t swap home games, as the StubHub! Center’s primary tenant, the L.A. Galaxy soccer team, as a game set for Sunday.

Moving the game date to a Monday night in Oakland is also complicating, considering the Raiders host Kansas City the following Thursday night.

The Seattle Seahawks are on a bye, and the game could be moved to CenturyLink Field in a pinch.

The EPA considered Oakland and Alameda air quality “unhealthy” on Wednesday and Thursday, recommending even healthy adults limit heavy exertion. Playing football outdoors would fall into that category, and caused the Raiders to pare their practice schedule on the aforementioned dates.

Michael Crabtree, Jalen Richard and receiver Isaac Whitney wore surgical masks during Thursday’s practice to prevent inhaling contaminants. The situation is not ideal for sport, at least not right now.

It’s difficult to forecast air quality, given unpredictable wind changes and fire patterns. The Raiders and the league should have to make a decision Friday to allow the Raiders and Chargers to change/create travel plans and for site plans to be finalized.

There is precedent for moving an NFL game late. A 2003 Chargers-Dolphins game was moved to Monday might in Arizona just 24 hours before kickoff due to wildfires in the San Diego region. Tickets in Arizona were free, with donations directed toward fire relief, and refunds were given to those who bought tickets for the game as originally scheduled.

Jerry Jones helped make Los Angeles world's most-resistant football town

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AP

Jerry Jones helped make Los Angeles world's most-resistant football town

Jerry Jones thinks Roger Goodell is an overpaid buttinsky and mall cop and wants him to be served a great whopping helping of chicken-fried crow.

Fine. If Goodell gets a paycheck haircut, what care we? If he gets shown the door, not a problem. He went from amiable servant of the people to arrogant and bullying poop-emoji in quicksilver time, and one does not cross the boss too many times without being crossed off the list.

But the NFL’S ALREADY burgeoning list of issues has increased by one – the Los Angeles Sinkhole – and the man who presented that one was, yes, Jerry Jones.

Jones is the one who whipsawed the deal by which the St. Louis Rams moved west to solve a problem that wasn’t rather than run point on the San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders stadium time share plan that would have definitively solved two others – all because he liked Stan Kroenke’s portfolio a lot more than Dean Spanos’ billfold or Mark Davis’ rubber band.

But he also saw to it that Spanos would not be left in the cold and helped broker the deal that allowed him to go to L.A. anyway.

And what did all that Jerry arm-wrenching work do for his partners? It made Los Angeles the world’s most football-resistant town.

The citizens have voted with their feet and made the Rams an uncool thing and the Chargers a veritable slum. They choose with great and careful thought to avoid both the Coliseum and StubHub Center as though the game-day giveaway was an anthrax-coated trucker’s hat – not because they hate the Rams and Chargers, or because they love the Raiders so much, but because when push comes to shove, Californians say no by not caring.

And let’s be honest here – disinterest is worse than hatred.

There are those who have called this an embarrassment to the league, but that misses the target. The league is 32 men, of which only a few control the rest as long as everyone gets paid. And the strongest of those men wasted the Los Angeles “opportunity” and gutted the fan bases of two teams just for a real estate deal and because he just liked rolling with other billionaires.

And if the Raiders don’t hit the ground at a dead sprint in Las Vegas, there may be a third – although in fairness that is not so much Jones’ work as it is Davis’ persistence and ability to find tactical geniuses to guide him to what he wanted, even if it doesn’t turn out to be what he needs.

In short, whatever happens in the Goodell-v.-Jones battle, you have no rooting interest save perhaps mutually assured destruction. We can all live better with that as a possibility.