ALAMEDA, Calif. — In desperate need of a positive turn, the Raiders may have gotten one on Wednesday.
Rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who missed last Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans with a fractured shoulder blade that has plagued him for more than five weeks, had an MRI on Tuesday after which he was cleared by the Raiders’ medical staff to resume practice.
The Raiders adjusted their regularly scheduled Wednesday practice to a walkthrough, which limited the work Jacobs was able to do and the read the Raiders could get on him. For now his status against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday is dependent on how the shoulder responds to the rest of the work week and how he feels on game day.
“We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days,” said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. “It doesn’t mean he’s gonna play, but I’m glad the reports are positive.”
Jacobs was not in the Raiders’ locker room during Wednesday’s media availability.
The mere fact that Jacobs could be available is a positive development for the Raiders, who were bracing for the possibility of playing their last three games without their standout running back.
And the message he is sending in the locker room by playing through the injury bodes well for his relationship with his teammates. Jacobs suffered the injury in Week 7 against the Packers but played through the injury — often with the help of pain-killing shots — over the next five games.
“It shows the kind of special player that he is,” Raiders defensive back Daryl Worley said. “A guy like that — and most guys are ready to pack it in and just get through the rest of the year — but a guy like (Jacobs) you want them around because that’s a guy that loves football. He wants to play. He wants to be out there with the guys. That’s the kind of guy you tip your cap to and always want as a teammate.”
That passion is resonating in the Raiders’ locker room, where Jacobs has quickly established himself as a prominent figure and team leader. For a young team still building a foundation and trying to establish a positive culture, that is an important development.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said Jacobs’ teammates have known how seriously injured he was ever since his shoulder blade was fractured. “So that’s why everything he’s done is even more impressive than what it is. The way that he’s fought…he’s one of my favorite people.”
Jacobs is sixth in the NFL with 1,061 yard rushing — a Raiders rookie record — and his 4.9 yards per carry is fourth best in the league. His seven touchdowns are tied for sixth among running backs. Jacobs also has 146 yards on 18 receptions.
While the Raiders are mathematically alive for the playoffs, they are in fifth place among AFC wild-card hopefuls and two games behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans for the last spot. It would take a series of events, starting with the Raiders winning their last three games and the Steelers losing all of theirs, for Oakland to punch its ticket.
Given how important Jacobs is to the Raiders’ future, they will protect him at all costs. But it looks like they are open to him playing again this year if everything checks out.
“I just listen to the medical staff and Josh,” Gruden said. “And today he’s made some improvement. But he still has to go out there and move explosively (on Thursday) and Friday and do the things a running back has to do to play in this league and protect himself in this league. So we’ll see what happens in the next 48 hours.”