ALAMEDA – Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. practiced in pads on Wednesday afternoon, the first time he’s done so since June’s mandatory minicamp.
He had just returned from an odd neck injury, and was optimistic about playing with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin along the defensive front.
That hasn’t happened yet. He hurt his hand in a fight with Kelechi Osemele in training camp and suffered a hip injury in the preseason opener. He hasn’t played in a game since.
While he has been designated to return off injure reserve and re-joined Raiders practice last week, and while Raiders hoped to get him back for the Chargers game, but that isn’t a lock at this stage.
“We’ll see how the rest of the week goes,” Edwards Jr. said. “Hopefully, if I can, then I will. If not, then we’ll hopefully try to get back before the end of the year.”
The Raiders have three games remaining, including the upcoming game at San Diego. If he can’t make it back then, he’d have opportunities on Christmas Eve versus Indianapolis and on New Year’s Day at Denver.
Edwards Jr. didn’t travel to Kansas City last week and continued getting treatment and working on his conditioning after such a long break.
“He has been working hard on the conditioning aspect outside of football,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Now it’s a matter of playing football.”
Edwards Jr. wants to re-join his teammates, but he doesn’t want to do suffer a setback.
“You would like to go out there and play right now, but it’s a long run,” Edwards Jr. said. “I want to play this game for eight to 10-plus years. It would make no sense to reinjure something trying to rush back when I could take my time and let it heal naturally.”
The Raiders have some time to evaluate Edwards Jr.’s practice progress, but they don’t have all year. He has 21 days to practice before the Raiders must add him to the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve. That deadline’s set for Dec. 26.
Edwards Jr. will try and make steady progress and return at some point if he continues to fare well in practice. He’s been working with the scout team during open portions of practice thus far, and is taking it slow and steady.
“It’s a process and we’re following it,” Edwards Jr. said. “However my body is feeling or responding or reacting to it, we’ll evaluate and go from there. So far so good. I’ve been running well, and I’m trying to get back.
“…I’m out and participating (in practice). Things I can’t do, I won’t. Things I can do, I will.”