The Raiders released their first regular-season injury report of the year, and while there are no major surprises, there is one area of concern that has emerged—the team’s expected primary return man, receiver DeAndre Carter, is dealing with a new knee injury that puts his availability for Sunday’s opener against Denver into jeopardy.
In the pantheon of present Raiders problems, this one is probably not so urgent, not with the sudden eruption of the Chandler Jones standoff. But as far as affecting how the Raiders play on the field, losing Carter would be a blow. Not only would receiver Hunter Renfrow be called upon to handle more action in the slot, but he could have the added pressure of again retuning punts for the Raiders, a duty he’d seemed to have handed to Carter this year.
Carter, who is 30 and in his sixth NFL season, participated in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was limited each day. He is making his return to the Raiders organization, though this is his first stint as a member of the 53-man roster. Carter was on the practice squad for 10 weeks in 2015.
Renfrow Excelled in Punt Returns in 2020 and 2021
Renfrow figures to pick up the slack at punt returner, a role at which he excelled in previous seasons. Renfrow averaged 9.8 yards per return in 2021, and 11.5 yards in 2020.
He will be one of the most-watched Raiders players in the early part of this season. He struggled badly with injuries last year, suffering a concussion and a pulled stomach muscle that kept him out for seven weeks combined. That came after a Pro Bowl year in which he caught 103 passes and tallied 1,038 yards from good friend and ex-Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Renfrow did not appear to be a fit with new coach Josh McDaniels, either. When the Raiders went out and added Carter and Phillip Dorsett in free agency, then drafted slot receiver Tre Tucker, the assumption was that Renfrow would soon be traded.
But he’s still a Raider, and that could pay special dividends this weekend if Carter can’t go and Renfrow must return punts. Veteran Ameer Abdullah is listed on the unofficial depth chart as the kick returner if Carter can’t go.
Facyson, Jones Other Names on Injury List
The only other name on the Raiders’ injury list is cornerback Brandon Facyson, who is struggling with a shin injury. He is listed as a backup corner on the depth chart, and is making his return to the Raiders after playing with the Colts last season. He played in 16 games for Indy, was their starter four times. He had a career high in tackles (53) and recorded his only career interception with the Raiders in 2021.
There was one more name on the injury report for the Raiders, though it’s not quite an injury that has caused him to land there—that would be Jones, whose war against the franchise appears to be escalating rather than diminishing.
After his initial (and deleted) Instagram tirade against the team on Tuesday morning, the Raiders apparently sent a crisis response representative to Jones’ house, a move he did not much appreciate.
Jones posted a series of other past texts between himself and coach Josh McDaniels, and wrote that he would be willing to let the issue drop—and stop posting—if he could just play in Week 1’s game.
That leaves the Raiders in an awkward position. They could allow Jones to play, which would make it appear that they bowed to his threats, or they could hold him out of Week 1, which would hurt the team on the field and would surely cause the issue to linger even longer.
Either way, Jones is listed as being injured. For now.
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter covering the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has written for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of experience covering the NBA, including 17 years as the lead NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of 7 nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley became Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney
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