Oakland Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes - Levi Damien
Since week two of this season, Willie Smith has been the Raiders right tackle. That is when starter Khalif Barnes went down with a groin injury and he hasn't returned to game action. Smith may have started his last game at right tackle for the Raiders.
Khalif Barnes returned to practice Wednesday. He was limited in practice which is expected for his first day back after missing the past two months. The team is hopeful he can return to the field on Sunday when the Raiders travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
If Barnes is not yet ready to return, the team could still keep Smith off the field. They are testing out rookie round three pick Tony Bergstrom at right tackle and are hopeful he can step in if needed.
Bergstrom played right tackle in college at Utah but was drafted to play left guard. He has not seen the field with starter Cooper Carlisle holding down that spot. Since then, he has been practicing as the backup at left tackle. Then with Barnes not returning to the lineup as quickly as initially hoped and the poor play of Smith, the team decided they would give him a shot at the position he played for four years and earned him the Raiders top pick in the 2012 draft.
The Raiders are not saying who will be starting at right tackle on Sunday as well they shouldn't. Although, they may not know for sure. It will depend greatly on if Barnes is deemed ready to return as the starter this week. That is the best case scenario.
Dennis Allen said Barnes was "Rusty, but improved. I'm optimistic, but I'll know more at the end of the week, whether or not he will have a chance to be active for this game or not."
"I don't know what the decision is going to be made yet, but the good thing is we don't have to make that decision today. We get a chance to watch him all week in practice and then we can make a decision."
Worst case scenario would be Barnes is not ready, Bergstrom is struggling, and Smith returns to the field.
Smith gave up two sacks and a had a holding penalty that called back a touchdown in last week's home loss to the Buccaneers. He has allowed consistent pressure on Palmer. The propect of Terrel Suggs or Paul Kruger rushing in untouched is that of which nightmares are made. Palmer knows with Smith in there, that nightmare will become reality.