ALAMEDA – Donald Penn was clearly in pain during the third quarter of Sunday’s game against Cleveland. The veteran right tackle hobbled to the sideline wincing all the way, seemingly done for the day at least.
Penn tried to work through it. He and guard Jon Feliciano did drills on the sideline, trying to determine if Penn could find a way to keep playing with a significant ailment.
He tried to return and help the team. It didn’t take. Penn exited after one snap, the last he’ll play for some time.
The Raiders placed Penn on injured reserve Tuesday afternoon, to make room for Ian Silberman. He was signed off Tennessee’s practice squad the day before.
This was a blow to the Raiders offensive line. The three-time Pro Bowl left tackle wasn’t perfect in his first season on the right side – he made room for first-round pick Kolton Miller – but he was growing into the position despite facing tough competition early in the year.
Now he’s down at least eight weeks. Head coach Jon Gruden said he hopes Penn can return at some point this season. NFL teams can designate two players to return injured reserve after they’ve spent eight weeks minimum on injured reserve.
Defensive tackle Justin Ellis is a candidate to return, along with Penn.
Gruden said third-round rookie Brandon Parker will start in Penn’s place. Miller and Parker will be the first Raiders rookie duo to start at offensive tackle since 1970, per ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau.
Penn’s latest injury continues a run of costly ailments after being healthy most of his career. He played all regular-season games for 10 straight years. He missed a 2016 playoff loss with a knee injury, and then missed two games last year and had to have Lisfranc foot surgery. Now a groin issue got the best of Penn as his career winds down.
He will push hard to return later this year, though Penn can’t come back in Week 13 at the absolute earliest.
He’s working back from injury shortly after getting right from the last one. Penn doesn’t plan to play much longer, but has $2.75 million guaranteed in 2019 after taking a pay cut in a summer contract restructure.
Penn originally signed with the Raiders late in the 2014 offseason, and became a stabilizing force protecting a then rookie quarterback Derek Carr.
“He was always encouraging me, telling me that I was going to be a special player,” Carr said. “That meant a lot coming from such a seasoned vet. He would do the same things for younger guys as well now. He definitely had an impact on me, for sure.”
Despite being originally upset when the Raiders drafted Miller and then Parker in the first three rounds, Penn was a willing mentor to both players. He was seen routinely working with them after practice reps and on the sideline during games.