Stefen Wisniewski (No. 61) has played well at left guard and center for the Raiders. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Stefen Wisniewski is a rookie, so he isn’t used to the always-shifting perceptions of fans and the media when it comes to any NFL team.
“Early in the year, everyone was talking about how good we are,” he told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group Friday, a day after the victory over the Chargers. “And then we suck after a couple of losses. And now we’re good again. It’s a heavily criticized job, but that’s the nature of the business.”
Wisniewski is getting the hang of the business, both off the field and on it.
The first-year offensive lineman has been one of the huge pluses of this 5-4 season in which the Raiders suddenly find themselves atop the AFC West.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Wisniewski was drafted out of Penn State to play center, then moved smoothly to left guard when center Samon Satele was re-signed, and then moved back to center Thursday night against the Chargers when Satele couldn’t play because of an injury.
The reshuffled offensive line included Wisniewski at center and Stephon Heyer starting at left guard, and it pounded on the Chargers all night, allowing Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones to run for a combined 196 yards.
When the Raiders travel to Minnesota Sunday to face the Vikings – who were thrashed by the Packers Monday night 45-7 – Oakland’s physical group up front will be tasked again with protecting quarterback Carson Palmer and opening holes for Bush, Jones and Darren McFadden, if he’s healthy enough to play.
Raiders head coach Hue Jackson was proud of the way Wisniewski and Co. adapted and overcame Satele’s loss, saying, “I don’t think this team flinches if something like that happens.”
“The offensive line did a great job of keeping the seams open for me,” Bush told reporters after his big game against the Chargers.
Wisniewski has been the big addition for the line this season from 2010.
“He’s been tremendous all year,” Jackson told Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I can’t say enough about him. What an awesome draft pick.”