Raiders safety Tyvon Branch has started 57 straight games for the team but that streak is in jeopardy this Sunday. He suffered a neck injury last Sunday against that Ravens and it cause him to miss two days of practice and this week. He was not at practice to start Friday but came out onto the field later on a limited basis.
When speaking with him after practice on Friday, he was visibly having difficulty turning his head too far to the side and certainly didn't make quick head movements.
"I just came out on the bad side of a hit one play," said Branch. "It's one of those things where I was on the plane and it just kept getting tighter and tighter... It's just kind of stiff. All-around soreness."
Mike Mitchell has been getting the reps with the first team this week in Branch's absence and he is set to start of Branch's neck doesn't improve before game time. He is excited to get the opportunity to start. But he is equally excited for the challenge that an offense like the Saints have brings to the table.
"If they call my number and I'm able to play some, I just wanna go do what I do and make plays. I think Jimmy Graham is one of the better tight ends in the game especially now since we're kind of transitioning from the tight end position. He's definitely one of the younger, better tight ends that you can go up against so it's definitely something that excites me. I feel like if you can defend those guys well, that says something about you so I'm always looking to improve my game and to get some success going against guys with bigger names. Obviously I know I have a heck of a challenge but I can't wait for it. I can genuinely say that I'm preparing to play a very good football game."
"I understand that these guys get paid too and they've been a good team for a while so obviously you have a lot of respect for the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees and all those guys. But as a competitor you can't be afraid of anyone and I know this team isn't afraid. We understand the monster that we're playing and I can't say it enough, it's a very good football team. We just gotta do our best to do our jobs and do what we're coached to do and make plays when we're given the opportunity."
Mitchell was drafted in the second round the year after Branch had been drafted in round four by the Raiders. Branch had missed eight games his rookie season and the team didn't know if he was going to be their everyday starting safety. Branch won the starting job out of camp and 57 starts later, Mitchell is still waiting for his shot.
From all indications, it looks like that shot will come this Sunday.