Raiders hope to get boost from healthy Branch
The Oakland Raiders finally might be getting one of the anchors
of their defense back.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch has returned to practice this week
for the first time since breaking his right leg Sept. 15 against
Branch is still limited at practice but hopes to be able to play
Sunday against the New York Jets. Branch was one of only two
returning starters on Oakland’s overhauled defense but only played
one game before getting hurt in the first quarter against the
Jaguars in Week 2.
While Brandian Ross is still slated to start this week, Branch
could get some time, which would provide a big boost for the
Raiders (4-8), who have lost four of their last five games.
”He’s physical and he’s powerful and he loves contact,”
defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. ”That’s what he brings to
the table. You can always use more guys like that.”
Ross had started only one game before taking over for Branch in
Week 3 against Denver and struggled at times with his increased
role. He was targeted on three touchdown passes in a 49-20 loss to
Philadelphia on Nov. 3, according to Pro Football Focus, and had
just three passes defensed, no interceptions, one sack and one
forced fumble all season.
Coach Dennis Allen said that if Branch is healthy he will play
despite being a bit rusty after missing nearly three months of
action with the injury.
”If my leg holds up, I think I can make an impact,” Branch
said. ”That’s part of my game is coming in and making plays. If I
have a chance to come out there and make some plays, I want
While the regime led by Allen and general manager Reggie
McKenzie has spent much of its first two years in Oakland getting
rid of players originally acquired by late owner Al Davis, the team
made a commitment to Branch when it signed him to a four-year,
$26.5 million contract.
One year later, they restructured the deal and added two more
years to it as they increased their commitment to Branch even
though he has yet to play up to that big contract.
”Any time you lose a player of Tyvon’s ability and the way that
he plays the game and he stands for the things we believe in here
and the way he takes care of his business, that’s a tough guy to
replace,” Allen said. ”Just getting him back out on the field, I
think is a big boost to obviously to him and to all of us.”
Branch is one of the longest-tenured Raiders non-specialists,
arriving in 2008 along with running backs Darren McFadden and
Marcel Reece. The only players with more continuous service with
the team are kicker Sebastian Janikowski and long snapper Jon
He had been extremely durable in his time in Oakland, starting
80 of 82 games from the start of the 2009 season until the injury
this year. That’s what made these last few months so difficult for
”Just watching the games, that’s the toughest part because you
want to be a part of it,” he said. ”Once I started talking to the
doctors about it, I knew it would be a long process. I just wanted
to get it right and get back on the field. I want to be out there.
I’m going to push it to the limit and whatever happens,
NOTES: McFadden remained sidelined by an ankle injury sustained
last week in Dallas. … WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), RG Mike
Brisiel (ankle, knee), S Usama Young (neck), RB Jeremy Stewart
(ankle, knee) and LB Kaluka Maiava (ribs, calf) also sat out
practice. … RB Rashad Jennings was limited with a concussion.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org