Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey hopes to return against the Falcons. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
When the Raiders come off their bye week, they’ll at least have their best receiver back on the field.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was knocked out of the game against the Steelers Sept. 23 with a concussion and neck injury, returned to practice Tuesday and said he’ll be good to go when the Raiders travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons on Oct. 14.
On Tuesday, DHB – who was held out of practice and last week’s game against the Broncos while he was evaluated for effects of the concussion – was back on the field running routes, catching passes and doing individual drills.
“We’ve got a plan for me, and today was step No. 1 and I feel pretty good,” Heyward-Bey told reporters afterward.
Heyward-Bey’s return is important for the Raiders offense, which already has a thin set of wide receivers. Jacoby Ford is injured and hasn’t yet played this season and rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater have been slowed by minor injuries that have limited their playing time. Denarius Moore also missed the first game of the season, but has been productive since his return. The Raiders had to sign veteran free agent Derek Hagan to fill the void.
Moore (12 catches, 183 yards, 1 TD) leads all wideouts on the team in receptions and yards, with Hagan (10, 102) and Heyward-Bey (9, 98) right behind. So far, quarterback Carson Palmer’s favorite targets have been running back Darren McFadden (18 catches), tight end Brandon Myers (16, 228) and fullback Marcel Reece (13, 118). The return of Heyward-Bey will give the Raiders more downfield options against the Falcons.
Heyward-Bey had by far the best season of his career in 2011 when he caught 64 passes for 975 yards and four TDs, all career highs.
Heyward-Bey admits he’s still not 100 percent after taking the hit from Steelers safety Ryan Mundy.
“I took a hard hit, man,” he told the Bay Area News Group’s Jerry McDonald. “I don’t know. (I was) good enough to practice.”
Given the extra time he’ll have to get his bearings, he and the Raiders believe he can play against the Falcons. Heyward-Bey says that despite all the problems the Raiders have had in going 1-3 and getting blown out in two losses, he believes the Raiders offense is close to breaking out.
He says the Raiders showed a bit of what they can do in outscoring Pittsburgh 34-31.
“We’re real close,” he told McDonald. “We’re one cut block away, we’re one cut away, one block down the field. We showed a little bit of it against Pittsburgh, and we had a little bit here and there. You just have to keep grinding. If you give up on things you’ll never see if it’s good or not.”