If there is one thing the Oakland Raiders cannot afford, it’s injuries. Though they’ve bulked up and added talent up and down the roster, Oakland still lacks depth in some key positions. It’s an issue that plagued the team last year, and is one that GM Reggie McKenzie sought to address through free agency and the draft this offseason. And it’s an issue the team is now contending with after an injury to one of their key free agent acquisitions.
Defensive lineman Antonio Smith was brought in after leaving the Houston Texans as a free agent to help revitalize the Raiders’ nearly non-existent pass rush. Along with fellow veteran free agent adds Justin Tuck, CJ Wilson and Lamarr Woodley, and youngsters Sio Moore and Khalil Mack, Smith was expected to help put some real teeth and ferocity back into Oakland’s defense, to help take it from a laughingstock to an intimidating and dominating force once again.
However, Smith sustained an injury while lifting weights during the team’s offseason program and his current status is somewhat unknown – and is being kept under wraps by the organization. What else is currently unknown is how exactly he sustained the injury to begin with, as team officials have simply labeled it a “mishap.” All we do know for certain at this point, is that the injury was serious enough to require surgery to correct it – though the team is downplaying its seriousness or significance by terming it a very “minor” surgery.
When questioned about it, McKenzie has barely acknowledged it, shrugging off the inquiries by saying, “he’ll be fine.” Head coach Dennis Allen gave the media a couple crumbs more than McKenzie, striking a cautiously optimistic note:
“We’ll have to see how he responds. He’s been doing really well. We’re going to have to play that by ear. I’m hopeful we’ll have him out there for at least some of the OTA’s or the minicamp.”
While it doesn’t seem that Smith’s injury is actually that serious – at least the team isn’t portraying it as such – and seems unlikely to force him to miss any sort of significant time, the fact that we don’t know the nature of the injury, nor what was corrected through this “minor” surgery, there is still some uncertainty surrounding it all. And that both McKenzie and Allen are being so intentionally vague about the incident – as well as the nature of the injury and subsequent surgery – only deepens the mystery and the uncertainty.
Fortunately for Oakland, the defensive line is an area that McKenzie has added some depth to this offseason. But losing Smith for any extended period of time could be a big blow to defensive coordinator Jason Tarver‘s plans for the Raiders defense.
Given the lack of any solid information, all we can do is what Allen said – play it by ear and hope for the best.