Sep/03/15 08:55 AM Filed in: Clive Walford
At this point of the summer, the Raiders were hoping that Clive Walford would have established himself as a key part of the offense.
The rookie tight end from Miami, touted by head coach Jack Del Rio as a “complete” tight end – capable of being a strong blocker as well as receiver – was projected by many to eventually win the team’s starting job.
Instead, Walford’s participation in practice and games has been stymied by what has been reported by ESPN as a hamstring strain.
That has left veteran Lee Smith – acquired from Buffalo – and Mychal Rivera as the team’s top two tight ends. Both have received plenty of work and look sharp.
Now, there is just one game remaining in the exhibition season, a Thursday night matchup in Seattle against the Seahawks, and roughly two weeks until Game 1 of the regular season, for Walford to make up for lost time.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave recently said that Walford’s missed practice and game time has been “significant.”
When Musgrave was asked if Walford would be ready for that season opener on Sept. 13 vs. the Bengals, he said, “That’s hard to answer.”
But Walford, a third-round draft choice, remains upbeat. This past Friday, he tweeted: “I’m good!!! No worries I’ll be ready.”
In the meantime, Smith – an outstanding blocker -- is now listed as the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart, and Rivera has picked up where he left off last season, catching four passes for 61 yards through three summer games.
The Raiders would love to get Walford into action this week in practice and a game, if he’s healthy. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he was a terrific receiver with the Hurricanes, catching 44 passes his final season. But even when he returned for a couple of practices in mid-August, Walford admitted he wasn’t up to speed, and Del Rio limited his practice time to guard against injury.
But the Raiders are invested in Walford for the long term. So far, this is just considered a minor bump on his long road.
“The bottom line is to have your horses make it to the race,” Del Rio told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group in mid-August about Walford’s status. “I don’t try to win the Kentucky Derby on a donkey. So we’ll try and get our best guys to the finish line. It’s important for them to get the work, but it’s also important to have him healthy.”