NAPA — Wide receiver Jacoby Ford sprinted downfield and caught a pass in stride. Not far away, Vance Walker and the rest of the Oakland Raiders defensive linemen went through their normal daily positional drills.
Right guard Mike Brisiel was on the field, too, doing limited individual work. Backup cornerback Chimdi Chekwa also returned after missing a day.
Slowly but surely, the Raiders’ list of injured players who are unable to practice is getting shorter.
Even first-round draft pick D.J. Hayden, limited through the first four weeks of training camp after undergoing abdominal surgery in the offseason, was given the green light in full pads on Monday.
“First day back, it felt good to get back out there,” said Ford, who practiced for the first time in nearly two weeks after being out with a strained hamstring. “I kind of took my time this time coming back. It didn’t grab or anything so it definitely was a positive day for me.”
Ford, who missed all of 2012 with a foot injury, sat out a week of practice earlier in camp then made a brief return before limping off the field again on Aug. 7.
After the speedy wide receiver made it through two days of rehab without a setback, he was cleared to return and showed no lingering effects. Ford ran without pain during the 30-minute span when practice was open to reporters and repeatedly flashed the burst that allowed him to average 18.8 yards a catch as a rookie.
“Before, it was kind of hard to accelerate and I was a little bit more timid,” Ford said. “Now I’m just 100 percent full go. I wanted to go do a little more (but) they kept holding me back. They definitely did a good job with that.”
Walker’s return to practice is even more critical for Oakland.
The Raiders defensive line has been decimated by injuries this season. The four projected starters — tackles Walker and Pat Sims, and defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Jason Hunter — haven’t practiced together once.
Sims has missed all but a half-day of practice while injured. Houston also sat out the first two preseason games with an undisclosed injury but has since returned.
A handful of other players remain sidelined on both sides of the ball, including second-round pick Menelik Watson. Strong safety Tyvon Branch, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2011, sat out Monday’s practice with sore ribs.
“You’re going to have to deal with (injuries) during the season ... and it is a next man up philosophy,” coach Dennis Allen said. “You’re going to play the game that week so from that standpoint it’s good preparation for us. At some point somebody’s going to have to step in and play, and we anticipate and expect backup players to play just like the starters.”
Brisiel, Oakland’s starting right guard in 2012, returned albeit in limited fashion. The Raiders’ top free agent acquisition a year ago, Brisiel has been slowed by a knee injury and is still struggling to recover from offseason ankle surgery.
Oakland’s offensive line as a whole has been slammed by injuries in camp.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer underwent surgery last week to repair a torn triceps muscle. Watson, the 42nd overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, began camp on the non-football injury list and made a brief return on Aug. 7 before aggravating a calf injury he originally suffered in late July.
The Raiders have had to shuffle things around as a result.
Tony Bergstrom is penciled in at left guard but has been taking reps at tackle. Alex Barron, who like Watson was expected to push right tackle Khalif Barnes for the starting job, has moved to the left side to replace Veldheer.
At least running back Darren McFadden looked well.
The team’s leading rusher two of the past three seasons, McFadden was bothered by a sore shoulder on Sunday but looked fine a day later.
“We’ve had the situation where we’ve brought some guys out here and they’ve re-injured themselves,” Allen said. “We want to make sure that guys are back and ready to go so we get a chance to evaluate them.”
Notes: Rookie TE Nick Kasa suffered a bruised quad muscle. ... The team will practice for two more days in Napa before ending camp and relocating to the team’s facilities in Alameda. ... Brandian Ross replaced Branch at strong safety with the first-team defense. ... WR/KR Josh Cribbs is also working as the Raiders’ emergency long-snapper and had one of his snaps sail more than 10 yards over the head of punter Chris Kluwe.
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