Nine days ago, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio announced that his prized quarterback, Derek Carr, would miss 2-6 weeks with a transverse process fracture in his back after he was hurt in a loss the day before in Denver. It was a wide timeline, one that Raider Nation hoped for it to be on the low end.
Now, it appears, it’s going to be even better than the best-case timeline. On Wednesday, in keeping in line what Del Rio said after a loss to Baltimore on Sunday, Oakland’s third straight defeat, the thinking is that Carr will be back in the starting lineup on Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Thus, in an injury that initially could have kept him out for six weeks appears will only cost Carr 60 minutes of football. Carr met with the media on Wednesday. He was limited in practice, but the plan is that he will play. Still, he admits he’s still feeling it. Yet, there is no way, Carr – who fought to play against the Baltimore Ravens — isn’t going to play against the Chargers.
“I mean, it just hurts. There’s really nothing much more to it. It just hurts,” Carr said in quotes distributed by the Raiders on Wednesday. “It’s not like anything that’s like, ‘Oh man, if I take a hit, I’m worried.’ It’s not like a worry. It’s just one of those things you have to deal with. Just like everybody in the NFL right now.”
Carr also knows what to expect on Sunday against the aggressive Chargers, who boast one of the best pass-rush combinations in the NFL in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Chargers are tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 17. Carr said he could wear some extra back protection, but that plan hasn’t been finalized. Carr, who also worked some last Thursday and Friday, said he will have no restrictions in terms of passes he can throw. Carr knows the Chargers want him to feel the rigors of his return.
“Obviously, they’re probably sitting there in their meeting rooms, ‘We have to hit him in the back,’ and all those things,” said Carr with a laugh of the Chargers defensive players, who he highly praised. “I think we’ll be alright.”
The respect is mutual. Bosa told Bay Area reporters that the Chargers expect the best from Carr on Sunday.
“It’s the Raiders and the Chargers, it’s always going to be a big game,” he said. “Huge rivalry. Guys on each team really bring out the best when it comes to this game. It’s kind of a win or kind of go home mentality for us now that we have these four losses. We need to start racking wins up. It’s a huge game for both guys. I heard quotes of Carr saying he would have played last week if he needed to. He’s a tough guy. I’m sure when he’s out there he’s going to be making plays. It’s still the same guy that just got the biggest contract in NFL history.”
Carr’s fast recovery has been spurred by his desire to help his team. Last season, when Carr broke his ankle in Week 16, there were whispers that he would be ready to play in the Super Bowl, six weeks after the injury, if the Raiders qualified. That timeline was much faster than his diagnosis. But Carr is all about getting on the field.
“The thing that pushed me to want to play is I wanted to win,” Carr said. “I wanted to show my teammates and my coaches that no matter what I’m going to do anything I can for my team. Show our city and our organization that it doesn’t matter what happens, I’m going do everything I can to be out there. Those are the things that motivated and pushed me. It wasn’t like a moment or anything like that. Those were the things from as soon as I was told and heard it could be up to six weeks, I said, ‘OK, we’ll see.’ Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe there’s something wrong in my head that thinks, ‘No, I can come back faster than that.’ I don’t know.”
What we all know is that the Raiders are much better with Carr than without him, and at 2-3, his return is a much-needed boost for the Silver and Black.