Raiders may be without starting center

Stefen Wisniewski walked slowly through the Raiders locker room,
a thick black brace around his right knee. He paused at his stall
briefly, donned a black hoodie then moved back out the way he
came.

For only the second time in three seasons, Oakland’s starting
center is facing a Sunday with no football. Wisniewski suffered a
knee sprain in last week’s loss to the Washington Redskins and
hasn’t practiced since.

It’s another blow to the Raiders offensive line, which could go
into Sunday’s game against San Diego with only one of its projected
starters still in place.

”It’s definitely a challenge,” said five-time Pro Bowl
offensive lineman Andre Gurode, who will start if Wisniewski is
unable to play against the Chargers. ”You just try to get with
everybody, make sure everybody’s on the same page and make sure
everybody knows what we have to do. That’s what we’re doing.”

Since losing left tackle Jared Veldheer to a triceps injury in
training camp, Oakland has scrambled to keep the same unit on the
field for longer than a week.

Khalif Barnes, the team’s starting right tackle since 2011, has
been at left tackle all season after the team tried former
first-round pick Alex Barron and rookie Menelik Watson in training
camp.

Tony Pashos was signed just before the start of the regular
season to replace Barnes at right tackle. Pashos has started all
four games but has been limited in practice this week with a groin
injury.

Right guard Mike Brisiel is the only player still playing in his
original position, while Gurode and Lucas Nix have split time at
left guard.

Wisniewski had been one of the few constants as well before
injuring his knee. The 48th player taken in the 2011 draft,
Wisniewski has played in 35 games in his two-plus seasons with the
Raiders. The only other game he missed was the season opener last
year.

Although the 6-foot-3, 307-pound center has not practiced this
week and is still a longshot to play against the Chargers, the
Raiders have not ruled him out.

”He’s made some improvement and we’ll see if he’s able to
practice (Friday),” coach Dennis Allen said. ”We’ll see if he’ll
be able to go.”

Oakland’s entire offense has been devastated by injuries.

Running back Darren McFadden remains sidelined with a sore
hamstring, while fullback Marcel Reece has been limited in practice
with a knee injury. David Ausberry, the projected starting tight
end, never played a down in the regular season and was placed on
injured reserve in late September.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was in that group with a concussion
but has since recovered and will be back in the starting lineup
this week.

No group has been hit quite as hard as the offensive line.

If Wisniewski can’t play, Gurode – who went to five straight Pro
Bowls with Dallas from 2006-10 – will make his first start at
center since the final game of the 2010 season. He spent 2011 with
Baltimore at left guard, and was with Chicago last season but did
not play.

”I don’t know if it’s going to change what we can and can’t
do,” Allen said. ”Obviously, you want to have Wiz in there. I
think he’s a really good football player and does a great job for
us in there and handles a lot of the communication for us. That’ll
be a little bit of an adjustment if he’s not able to go.

”If he’s not, I feel confident that Andre Gurode can go in
there and do the job. He’s played center in this league for a long
time and been a good player in this league for a long time.”

Notes: FS Charles Woodson returned to practice after skipping
Wednesday’s workout for non-football reasons. … DE Jason Hunter
(quad), DT Stacy McGee (shoulder) and OL Menelik Watson (knee) were
limited. … Allen insists he’s not concerned about Sebastian
Janikowski’s struggles. Janikowski has missed three field goal
attempts in four games. He had just three misses for all of
2012.