ALAMEDA — The Oakland Raiders returned from their bye week facing many of the same questions on the offensive line that they had when they left town last week.
The Raiders began practice Monday with the same makeshift line that struggled mightily in their last game eight days ago in Kansas City with many of their starters still dealing with injuries.
Backups Lamar Mady and Matt McCants are once again working with the first team for the Raiders (2-4) and right guard Mike Brisiel was back at center after playing there for the first time ever in an NFL game in the 24-7 loss to the Chiefs.
Coach Dennis Allen said it’s too soon to know whether center Stefen Wisniewski, right tackle Tony Pashos or guard/center Andre Gurode will be healthy enough to play Sunday against Pittsburgh.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have more guys back, but I won’t know until Wednesday,” Allen said.
Wisniewski has missed the past two games with an injured knee and his absence has been notable because of his role making the line calls and organizing the line. He was working on the side Monday with a trainer instead of with the team during the open portion of practice.
Gurode, a former Pro Bowl center, filled in admirably when he had to move from left guard to center but then he left in the first half against the Chiefs with an injured quadriceps. That forced Brisiel to move over to center for the first time since he played in NFL Europe in 2007 and put former practice squader Mady at right guard.
Pashos was knocked out of the Chiefs game with a hip flexor and has also been hampered by a groin injury, giving McCants his first playing time as a pro.
Rookie tackle Menelik Watson has had only about 10 practices with the team since the start of training camp because of injuries to his calf and knee and remains sidelined.
Left tackle Khalif Barnes is the only player to remain in his spot for all six games this season although he had to move from the right side to the left right before the season because of injuries to starter Jared Veldheer and Watson.
That led to a re-worked line that allowed nine sacks in the loss to the Chiefs and has given up 20 the past three weeks after allowing just seven in the first three games.
“We’ve kind of been doing it all year long with guys rotating and playing different spots but it’s real tough when you do it at the center position,” Barnes said. “Especially when you have both centers go down. It’s tough because you don’t really work with that center on different types of timings, silent counts.”
The Raiders hope that the experience the backups gained during that game in a loud environment against one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league will pay dividends if they are forced into action again this season.
“There’s no replacement for experience,” Allen said. “Unfortunately at times guys have to get their experience in a tough situation in a game environment. That’s the way you get better as a football team.”
NOTES: Oakland has lost its last 10 post-bye week games by a combined score of 271-139. … LB Miles Burris also worked out on the side as he tries to work his way back from offseason knee surgery. Burris is eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform list at any time. … The Raiders signed G Jason Foster to the practice squad and released RB George Winn.