Raiders bide time, preserve roster flexibility with IR option

Updated October 23, 2017 - 8:11 pm

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Today, the Raiders could designate a player to return from injured reserve.

Guard-tackle Denver Kirkland, the logical choice, could dust off his silver helmet and No. 79 white practice jersey. He could join teammates this week in practice and walk-through sessions. And he could make his season debut on Nov. 19 against the New England Patriots in Mexico City.

Then again, what’s the rush?

The Raiders see none. After designating safety Obi Melifonwu last week for return from IR, they are permitted one more such designation this season. Kirkland is “pretty healthy” now after August foot surgery, coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. But by not starting Kirkland’s clock, the team preserves roster flexibility that could prove timely this year.

“We’re not in a hurry to make any moves,” Del Rio said. “We’ll see how the year plays out.”

A player must spend six weeks on IR before he can be designated to return from it. That designation first allows him to resume practice. After two weeks of practice, he becomes eligible for activation onto the 53-man roster. He must be activated between then and the end of a third practice week, or be placed on season-ending IR.

Melifonwu will begin his second practice week on Tuesday.

The rookie second-round pick underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August. He’s expected to make his season debut when first eligible on Nov. 5 against the Miami Dolphins.

There is little incentive for the Raiders to allow Kirkland to practice, too, given they’ll forfeit the option to activate another player in 2017. That player might see more meaningful snaps than those awaiting Kirkland.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton and kicker Sebastian Janikowski are the only other Raiders players currently on injured reserve.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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