Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey practiced for the first time Tuesday since being hospitalized by a helmet-to-helmet hit as the Oakland Raiders worked on fixing their problems during the bye week.
Heyward-Bey took part in individual drills as the Raiders (1-3) held their first of two practices this week before getting four days off for the bye. He ran some routes and caught some passes in his first step back.
”We’re kind of at that stage, just trying to take the necessary steps,” he said. ”We’ve got a plan for me, and today was step No. 1 and I feel pretty good.”
Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious on Sept. 23 by a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone from Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy. Heyward-Bey appeared to be knocked out by the hit. He then crashed to the turf headfirst and his neck twisted awkwardly. He was taken to the hospital for a concussion and sprained neck.
Heyward-Bey did not practice last week as he waited to pass the NFL concussion tests. But he was able to participate Tuesday and said he plans to play in the team’s next game Oct. 14 at Atlanta.
This is the second straight year in which Heyward-Bey has had to be carted off the field during a game. He suffered a neck injury against Minnesota in 2011 but did not miss a game.
”I took a hard hit last year but that was a lot more of a neck injury than a head injury when it came to that one and I came back the next week,” he said. ”For each person individually it’s different. Everybody works differently, everybody is a different personality, so got to look at it that way.”
Heyward-Bey is coming off his best season as a pro, when he had 64 catches for 975 yards and four touchdowns. Heyward-Bey was picked seventh overall in 2009 and struggled his first two seasons. But the Raiders were counting on him to build on his breakthrough campaign this year and be a key part of the offense with quarterback Carson Palmer.
Heyward-Bey had nine catches for 98 yards and one touchdown at the time of the injury.
The Raiders’ depth at receiver has been tested early this season, with Heyward-Bey missing one game, fellow starter Denarius Moore missing the opener with a hamstring injury and projected third receiver Jacoby Ford out for the season with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. Rookies Rod Streater and Juron Criner have also been nursing minor injuries that have limited their practice time so far this season.
”It definitely was a plus for us just to have the whole group out there healthy going into the bye week,” receiver Derek Hagan said. ”That’s the main thing going into the bye week, you want everybody to be healthy and focusing on the job they have to do.”
The Raiders are also waiting to get back starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who has been out since spraining his right foot Sept. 16 at Miami. Oakland’s other starting cornerback, Ron Bartell, broke his shoulder blade in the opener and can’t return until at least Nov. 11 at Baltimore.
The injuries in the secondary have played a role in Oakland’s struggles this season as the Raiders have allowed opponents to complete 71.5 percent of their passes – higher than any team has ever allowed in a full season. Oakland also has been unable to generate any pass rush with just three sacks as quarterbacks have been able to get rid of the ball quickly to open receivers.
Starting right tackle Khalif Barnes also remains sidelined by a groin injury.