Injury report: Taiwan Jones returns to Raiders practice

Injury report: Taiwan Jones returns to Raiders practice

SARASOTA, Fla. – Raiders special teams standout Taiwan Jones watched Wednesday’s practice from the bleachers. On Thursday, he got back on the field.

Jones was limited in a practice conducted at the IMG Academy, a sign that he’s close to full health after missing a game with a knee injury.

The Raiders were without their best cover men in Jacksonville, with Jones and Brynden Trawick sidelined with injury. It’s possible that both are back to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Trawick has been limited in practice this week. So were rehabbing offensive linemen Menelik Watson (calf) and Vadal Alexander (ankle). The Raiders hope to have one or both of them available in Tampa Bay. Austin Howard has started the last two games at right tackle.

The Raiders brought Mario Edwards Jr. out to Florida, though he hasn’t been formally cleared to practice.

Tampa Bay is still working without running back Doug Martin, who has been sidelined with a hamstring strain.

Raiders participation report
Did not practice:
DT Stacy McGee (knee)
Limited participation: RB Taiwan Jones (knee), Vadal Alexander (ankle), S Brynden Trawick (shoulder) OT Menelik Watson (calf), WR Andre Holmes (hip)

Buccaneers participation report
Did not practice:
RB Doug Martin (hamstring)
Limited participation: DE Robert Ayers (ankle), C Joe Hawley (ankle), DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring), DL Gerald McCoy (calf)

Raiders want second-round pick Ward to stop playing like a robot

Raiders want second-round pick Ward to stop playing like a robot

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders want defensive lineman Jihad Ward to stop acting like a robot. The rookie second-round pick is a bit too rigid at times, trying too hard to play by the rules.

With his agility and athleticism, coaches want him to riff a little bit and make more plays.

“The message is, don’t be so rigid,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Yeah, you have the B-gap, but you can whip that guy and go make a play in the A or B or C or somewhere else in the backfield. Sometimes young guys are so conscientious on being exactly where they have to be that they just don’t play football. So, we want our guys to express themselves, want them to let it flow and just trust their instincts to help play football.”

Ward is learning on the fly this season. He’s playing far more that anyone expected, largely because Mario Edwards Jr. is on injured reserve with a hip injury. He’s on the comeback trail, and hopes to join an improved Ward and Denico Autry on the interior defensive line.

“I’m just taking it to the next step,” Ward said. “You have to keep learning and learning and getting better. I have learning to do. I feel a little like a robot, you know what I’m saying? It just takes time. Everything takes time.”

Rookies often worry to much about following the letter of the law, and the Raiders hope Ward realizes how much talent is locked inside.

“He’s an effort-filled guy. I’m waiting for him to kind of recognize how athletic he is,” Del Rio said. “He’s a lot more athletic than some of the linemen he’s allowing to actually get their hands on him. So, as he gains that experience and recognizes that more and more, I think we’ll cut him loose more and more.”

Interior pressure has been missing from the Raiders defense, though Ward provided more of it in a victory over Jacksonville and has shown better in recent weeks. It still isn’t good enough for the Illinois product, who was always as a high-ceiling player who needed some polish.

That has come through experience in a busy rookie year where he’s playing 60 percent of Raiders defensive snaps.

“With me first coming up in the NFL, I’m wondering, ‘Why am I thinking too much?,’” Ward said. “I have it, ain’t no point in thinking. … I just have to keep trusting it, keep trusting it and that’s all I have to say on that one.”

Mario Edwards Jr joins Raiders in Florida

Mario Edwards Jr joins Raiders in Florida

SARASOTA, Fla. – Mario Edwards Jr. has joined the Raiders in Florida. Head coach Jack Del Rio inferred that would happen earlier this week, but the second-year defensive lineman was confirmed to be at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Thursday morning.

Edwards Jr. has been on injured reserve all season, and hasn’t practiced since suffering a hip injury in the preseason opener at Arizona. The Raiders plan to use their lone return designation to bring him back from injured reserve, but that hasn’t happened yet.

He needs to do side work before being cleared for practice. Edwards Jr. was not seen during open portions of Thursday’s practice, though he could be training away from prying eyes.

He was eligible to start practicing last week, but wasn’t quite ready. He is also eligible to play in a Week 9 game against Denver, though it’s highly unlikely he’d be ready for that return date. The Raiders have a bye scheduled after the Broncos game, giving him time to be ready to play Houston in a Week 11 affair in Mexico City.

“The whole situation with Mario is when he’s cleared, he’ll go,” head coach Jack Del Rio said on Wednesday. “Until then, he’s going to do stuff, whether it’s on the side or with the trainers and the doctors like all players that are in that designation where doctors have control. Once they have the green light, we’ll get him to work. Until then, he’ll work on the side.”