Updated September 12, 2019 - 9:54 am
ALAMEDA, Calif. — In a phone interview Wednesday night, Raiders rookie safety Johnathan Abram talked about the season-ending injury he suffered in Monday night’s 24-16 win against Denver.
“I fell, my arm hyperextended and it ended up popping out of place,” Abram said. “And when I stood up, it popped back in place.”
Abram tore his labrum and rotator cuff and will be placed on injured reserve, the team announced earlier in the day.
Abram said the injury occurred on a play late in the second quarter when he forced receiver DaeSean Hamilton out of bounds down the left sideline for an incompletion.
Abram said he got the wind knocked out of him but felt good enough to continue playing. He said his arm felt a little numb but that he was OK the rest of the game. He used his right shoulder to tackle, he said.
The 22-year-old starter said he didn’t realize the injury’s severity until Tuesday morning. He said his wife told him he was whimpering in his sleep because of the pain. He then tried to pick up his daughter and couldn’t move his left arm.
“I knew something was wrong,” Abram said.
An MRI confirmed his suspicions. Abram said he tore the labrum and rotator cuff completely and was told a complete tear was easier to repair than a partial one. He added that it’s the first major injury of his career.
While he’s away from the team, Abram said he plans to take classes to get his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. But that’s not how his first year in the NFL was supposed to go.
The Raiders must turn to the proverbial “next man up” at safety after coach Jon Gruden confirmed that the rookie will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season.
“No question, it’s a big loss,” Gruden said. “We’ll keep him around here, let him learn the defense. And we’ll consider this a redshirt year for him. But he made some big plays to help us win a football game. He’s a big part of our future.”
Abram, one of the Raiders’ three first-round picks this year, suffered the injury in the first half of the season opener. He played the rest of the game, totaling 77 percent of the Raiders’ defensive snaps, and had five tackles and a pass defensed.
“All he was talking about before the game was, ‘I’ve waited my whole life for this,’ ” quarterback Derek Carr said. “And for him to go out there and hurt it when he did and to continue to play — he said, ‘Yeah, I just started hitting people with my other shoulder.’ And that right there shows you what kind of man he is.”
Said Gruden: “He’s everything as advertised. He’d probably play this week if we let him.”
“You don’t want to see one of your guys and one of your brothers go down like that,” safety Karl Joseph said. “And he’s such an important and vital part to our defense.”
Fellow 2019 first-round pick Josh Jacobs said it was tough to hear about Abram’s injury.
“I just found out about it this morning,” Jacobs said. “I mean, that’s crazy for him. He was playing really good — fast and all of that.”
The Raiders have internal options at safety with Curtis Riley, Erik Harris and Dallin Leavitt. Riley probably will get the first chance, as he played 39 percent of the defensive snaps in the safety rotation Monday. Harris saw action exclusively on special teams, and Leavitt was inactive.
“Everybody has a role, and right now at the safety position, everybody’s role has changed a little bit,” Gruden said. “So we’ll go with those guys and perhaps Leavitt will get his shot.”
Riley has the most experience of the candidates. An undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, he spent 2015 to 2017 with the Tennessee Titans before starting all 16 games for the New York Giants in 2018. He has five interceptions and seven passes defensed in 28 games.
“I think we’ll be just fine,” Joseph said. “Curtis has played at a high level before. He’s started in this league. So he’s going to have to come in and step up for us.”