ALAMEDA – Raiders offensive tackle Donald Penn has been on injured reserve since Oct. 3. It will be eight weeks on Wednesday, meaning he’s ever-so -lose to becoming eligible to return.
Just because he can at that point doesn’t mean he will, however. Penn isn’t ready just yet, but coach Jon Gruden has a level of confidence he can return to the active roster at some point this year.
“He has been downstairs rehabbing and we are hoping he can come back and help us,” Gruden said. “I don’t know how close he is officially, but he is making progress. Hope to have him on the field before the season is over.”
There are some pros and cons if the Raiders bring him back. Penn could definitely help at right tackle, with third-round rookie Brandon Parker in the midst of a trial by fire at the position. Parker has been good at times, overmatched at others. A veteran’s stability and Penn’s willingness to teach could an asset down the stretch.
But if Penn suffers a serious injury upon return, he would have to rehab well into the 2019 season, and the Raiders would be on the hook for his entire salary. Right now, only $1.750 million is guaranteed.
Activating Penn would also impact running back Marshawn Lynch. The Silver and Black have already given defensive tackle Justin Ellis one of two designations to return off IR.
If the second goes to Penn, Lynch will be shut down for sure. He went on injured reserve after a Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in London, and would only be eligible for the Christmas Eve home finale against the Denver Broncos at the earliest.
Lynch is set to be an unrestricted free agent, and it’s uncertain what he plans to do in the future. His rehab timetable is also uncertain, or whether a return is even realistic at this stage.
Raiders to sign Ravens TE
The Silver and Black will sign tight end Darren Waller off the Ravens practice squad, Gruden announced on Monday.
They waived receiver Johnny Holton to create Waller’s roster spot. Defensive back Arrion Springs was waived off the practice squad to make room for Holton to return there.
“He’s a big guy that can really run,” Gruden said of Waller. “He was a wideout at Georgia Tech, he’s transitioning into a hybrid role and we will take a look at him.”
He will be more of a tight end with the Raiders, and can learn from veteran Jared Cook down the stretch. He grew up less thatn 50 miles from where Cook was raised in Georgia.
Waller has been suspended twice for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy, the last of which was a one-year ban that ended in Aug. 2018.
Justin Ellis cranking up
Ellis started practicing with his teammates last week, and Gruden said he could re-join the 53-man roster off injured reserve this week prior to Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
“Ellis will be up this week, hope to have him available against the Chiefs,” Gruden said. “That will help us on the inside running game I do believe.”
Sean Smith suspended
He was given a jail sentence for felony assault, though a one-year term was cut short when Smith was released in August. He has been a free agent since his return, though he was never formally disciplined for the incident prior to Monday’s suspension by the league.