ALAMEDA, Calif. — Justin Ellis waited two months to say this.
“I’m happy to be back,” he said Thursday.
The Raiders nose tackle is on track to resume practice next week. On Sunday, he’ll miss his ninth straight game to a foot strain he suffered during the Sept. 10 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams. The ailment forced his placement onto injured reserve.
A team can activate up to two players from IR during the season. Ellis, 27, is poised to become the Raiders’ first.
His return should offer a boost to the interior run defense. Oakland has allowed 4.8 yards per carry this season, tied for seventh-worst in the NFL.
Ellis, a 2014 fourth-round pick, has started 42 of 61 games. He signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract in March.
Rashaan Melvin played 31 defensive snaps as a reserve Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
It was a start.
The Raiders turned once more to their offseason’s highest-priced defensive back signing. He was a healthy scratch in Weeks 8 and 9 versus the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers and drew just seven defensive snaps in Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders had their bye Week 7.
“I missed almost a month in a way,” Melvin said.
The veteran cornerback acknowledged he was “rusty” in his return, taking time to acclimate to game speed and find rhythm with his technique. He said he adjusted by the fourth quarter, something off which he can build Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals.
In March, the Raiders signed Melvin to a one-year contract worth up to $5.5 million. A slow start followed, as he adapted to techniques required within the system.
“He’s earned his right to play,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s done a good job on the practice field.”
— Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant continue to recover from knee injuries. Neither participated in the Raiders’ walk-through Thursday. Bryant is expected to miss multiple weeks with a posterior cruciate ligament ailment. Nelson, out with a knee contusion, has a chance to play Sunday. Coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday that he anticipates Nelson will be listed as “questionable” on Friday’s injury report.
— The Raiders listed cornerback Gareon Conley (groin), linebacker Kyle Wilber (knee), left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee), center Rodney Hudson (ankle) and cornerback Daryl Worley (shoulder) as limited participants for the second consecutive day.