Raiders get boost with Ford's return to practice

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders got a big boost for their offense heading into their must-win season finale when big-play receiver Jacoby Ford practiced for the first time in more than a month Wednesday.

Ford participated on a limited basis for the first time since spraining his left foot on Nov. 10 at San Diego, a positive sign heading into this crucial week for the Raiders. Oakland (8-7) needs to beat the Chargers (7-8) to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2002.

"It was a good start for him," coach Hue Jackson said. "He had a chance to do some things today, move around, I think that's a start, we'll just keep going through the week and see where he is tomorrow and keep going forward."

After a strong rookie season, Ford has played only sparingly this season because of injuries. He has played just seven games, leaving the opener with a hamstring injury and the first game against the Chargers with a foot injury in the first quarter.

Ford has caught 17 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown this season and has also returned a kick for another score - his fourth in two seasons. His latest injury came on a 41-yard catch in the first game against the Chargers.

"He wants to play," Jackson said. "But again, I got to do what's best for this football team. We've got a huge game. I think we all understand that. The most important thing is to put him in the best situation and put our team in the best situation to win a game."

Ford wasn't the only key player to return to practice Wednesday. Safety Michael Huff also was back after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. Running back Darren McFadden remains sidelined by an injured right foot that he hurt Oct. 23.

But the Raiders are healthier than they've been in weeks. Denarius Moore has provided a spark the past two weeks after returning from a foot injury, catching a 61-yard pass for Oakland's only touchdown in last week's 16-13 overtime win at Kansas City that kept Oakland's season alive.

Oakland's offense struggled when the speedy Moore and Ford were missing on the outside. Quarterback Carson Palmer is looking forward to the chance to work with all of his big-play threats.

"We're getting to the point where we can be really healthy and a lot healthier," he said. "We're going to take it one day at a time. It's not a situation where you want to save anybody and it's not a situation where you just want to rush somebody back to the field. There's such kind of weird injuries. They all have that foot injury that at any time could go. The trainers are going to do a good job making sure they're ready to be on the field when they are on the field."

Huff has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but said there was no way he'd miss this week's game after spending his first five NFL seasons watching the playoffs.

The Raiders can win the AFC West by beating the Chargers and having Denver lose at home to Kansas City or win the wild card with a win, a Cincinnati loss and either a Tennessee loss or a New York Jets win.

"We're so close," he said. "We just have to go here and win Sunday and take care of our part. We haven't been this close in a while. We have to relish the opportunity and take advantage of it."

The Raiders are still waiting to get McFadden back for the first time since he injured his right foot in the first quarter against Kansas City on Oct. 23. He has missed eight straight games since then.

Jackson said he checks in with McFadden and the training staff for progress updates daily and is still waiting for the good news.

"He's just not ready yet," Jackson said. "He's getting closer. I keep telling you guys. He's getting much closer. But at the end of the day, to do what he does, and as fast as Darren runs and as violent as Darren runs, you got to make sure you're healthy. You can't just go out there and wobble and run around and jog through it. You've got to be able to run through it, and he's not ready yet, and that's OK."

The Raiders didn't miss McFadden much in the first meeting against the Chargers as Michael Bush rushed for 157 yards and had 85 yards receiving for the biggest day from scrimmage by a Raider since Art Powell had 247 yards in 1963 against Houston.

Notes: Pro Bowl DT Richard Seymour missed practice with an illness. ... Raiders P Shane Lechler is glad that all four kicking specialists selected from the game are from Bay Area teams with teammate Sebastian Janikowski getting picked as AFC kicker and San Francisco P Andy Lee and K David Akers getting tabbed for the NFC. "It will be fun out there because we know those guys pretty well," Lechler said. "Hopefully, we get to play some golf with them or something and see how good they are."


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