BALTIMORE – Raiders receiver Jordy Nelson was formally considered questionable to play Sunday at Baltimore on the team’s official injury. That puts his odds at 50-50.
Head coach Jon Gruden upped them a smidge after Friday’s practice, the final session before traveling to combat the Ravens.
“I think he has a pretty good chance to play,” Gruden said. “I don’t know how much, but we’ll see how it goes. Keon Hatcher will be ready to play.”
Having Nelson up even in a limited role could help a group of healthy receivers with little experience. Seth Roberts is that group’s elder statesman with Nelson banged up and Brandon LaFell now on injured reserve.
Nelson made last week’s trip to Arizona in large part to counsel this young corps, but could do far more from the field. Nelson’s a grinder who doesn’t like missing practices or games.
Adding him even for a few snaps and targets could get the offense moving, or take attention off young talents in coverage.
Roberts, rookie Marcell Ateman and first-year pro Keon Hatcher will play major roles in the offense – Martavius Bryant was formally ruled out with a knee injury – whether Nelson is ready or not.
That isn’t easy on quarterback Derek Carr – his season started with Bryant, Nelson and Amari Cooper featured at receiver – but Gruden praised his ability to work with any pass catcher. That’s what happened in last week’s 23-21 victory over Arizona, and it’s what New Orleans’ Drew Brees did in a nationally-televised Thanksgiving game, throwing four touchdowns to undrafted players to beat Atlanta.
“You don’t have to be a first-round draft choice to be a good player,” Gruden said. "It’s one thing I’ve always believed in. If you get the right kind of guys that fit that type of system, that work their butt off every day, you’d be surprised at what guys can do when they get an opportunity. But to your point, yes, (Brees’ performance) was what I was talking about. It was awesome to see.”
The Raiders won’t see defensive tackle Justin Ellis return off injured reserve before Sunday’s game against the Ravens. He was formally designated to return and start a 21-day practice window on Thursday, not enough lead time to get the nose tackle up and running.
“We’ll shoot for next week,” Gruden said. “We’ll try to get him a couple more practices. He is getting better.”
Also, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced what most expected, that rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson would make his second start for the injured Joe Flacco. Jackson’s a speed demon unafraid to run, as he did beating Cincinnati last week.
“Preparation for Jackson is a lot different than Flacco,” Gruden said. “We had Rico Gafford, one of our scout team guys, try to simulate him. Hard to do with that kind of speed and passing ability. But we got our work done. We’ll see how it worked out.”
WR Maratvis Bryant (knee)
WR Jordy Nelson (knee)
CB Leon Hall (back)
QB Joe Flacco (hip)
OT James Hurst (back)
DB/LB Andy Levine (ankle)
LB Tim Williams (ankle)
CB Tavon Young (groin)
RB Alex Collins (foot)
OG Alex Lewis (shoulder)