As the Raiders head toward the final four games of the regular season – and a playoff berth that appears more and more likely – they’re ready to welcome some defensive reinforcements.
The first is defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., who returned to practice Monday after being sidelined since training camp. The second is outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who is eligible to be reinstated by the NFL after a year’s suspension. The Raiders, however, have reportedly not been given a timetable by the league about when that might happen, and the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported that the team is not counting on his return – for now.
Edwards, however, is back in the fold.
He’s not expected to be activated in time for this Thursday’s night game against the Chiefs in Kansas City, but it’s possible Edwards could be ready to go for the following games against the Chargers (Dec. 18), Colts (Dec. 24) or Broncos (Jan. 1).
Edwards had a strong rookie season in 2015 until being sidelined by a neck injury for the final two games. Over 14 games, he improved markedly as the season progressed, getting more playing time. He finished with two sacks and was in on 42 tackles.
He was eager to contribute in a bigger way in Season 2, but a hip injury suffered Aug. 12 has kept him off the field. On Monday, he returned to practice with his team as it prepares for Thursday’s game.
“It felt good just to get back out there with those guys,” Edwards told reporters after practice. “My last time being out there with them was against the Cardinals in preseason (Aug. 12), so to get back our there with them now, just even if it is a practice, just to get back out there, the camaraderie, and things like that, definitely felt good.”
After a rough start this season the Oakland defense has improved significantly. In Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills, defenders held the Bills scoreless over the final quarter and a half while the offense scored 29 points en route to a 38-24 victory.
The Raiders have 21 days to either activate Edwards off injured reserve or allow him to remain on IR for the rest of the season.
Edwards is looking forward to contributing, after watching his teammates build a 10-2 record that leads the AFC West.
“I’m healing up great and I’m looking forward to coming back and playing,” he said.
The Raiders take on the 9-3 Chiefs Thursday, with kickoff set for 5:25 p.m.