Former Bills return standout Roscoe Parrish has been picked up by the Raiders. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Once, Roscoe Parrish was one of the NFL’s best punt returners.
He led the NFL in punt-return average in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008 with the Buffalo Bills – 16.3 and 15.3 yards – and has an excellent career average of 12.0 yards on 135 returns.
Yet the signing of Parrish by the Raiders this week is likely more a signal of the team's concern about injuries to Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford than it is their excitement about landing Parrish.
Both Ford and Moore have been hobbled by injuries this preseason and, though Oakland head coach Dennis Allen says both are getting closer to returning, their status is still uncertain for playing in the regular-season opener against the Chargers on Sept. 10.
Without Ford and Moore, the Raiders’ best punt-return men, the team has averaged just 4.4 yards on seven returns this summer. Also, Parrish is a wide receiver and provides insurance in that area, as well, if Ford and Moore are sidelined for a lengthy period.
Parrish played seven seasons for Buffalo after coming out of the University of Miami, and caught 134 passes for the Bills for seven TDs. But his biggest impact for the Bills was as a punt returner. From his rookie season in 2005 through 2010, Parrish took three punts back for TDs, had six returns of more than 40 yards and averaged more than 10 yards per return all but one season.
This summer, Parrish was in the Chargers’ training camp, but was waived this week and promptly signed by the Raiders.
He’ll be thrown into action immediately against the Seahawks Thursday night in the Raiders’ final exhibition game.
“We’ll get a chance to get him out there to return some kicks on Thursday night and see what we’ve got,” head coach Dennis Allen told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group Tuesday.
Parrish, 5-foot-9 and just 175 pounds, believes he can still make things happen as a returner.
“When I go back there I have to make something happen and with my instincts, my quickness, I just try to use it to my advantage, try to be a playmaker and put the offense in good field position,” Parrish told McDonald.
Parrish, however, is 30, played just two games for the Bills in 2011 and has been let go by both the Bills and Chargers in recent months. Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West for ESPN.com, doesn’t believe Parrish is likely to be an impact player for the Raiders in 2012. His signing is more for insurance.
“Perhaps he will be lightning in a bottle, but he is being brought to Oakland because of injuries,” Williamson wrote.
The Raiders are eager to get Ford and Moore back into action, not only for the punt-return game, but for the passing game. Both have missed plenty of time, and Allen wants to make certain they are in rhythm with quarterback Carson Palmer and in sync with their routes and timing.
Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur that both are “close” to playing, but he’s not exactly sure when they will.
In the meantime, Parrish will get one more chance to show what he can do.