Coming into this season, Stefen Wisniewski was the Raiders starting center. That plan got off to slow start as Wisniewski recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered last season that required surgery in the offseason. Then he went out with a calf injury in the first series of the Raiders' first preseason game. All the time he has been out, rookie Alex Parsons has been the team's first team center.
Wisniewski returned to practice this week for the first time since that injury on August 13. But he wasn't handed the center position upon his return. Parsons had been working with Carson Palmer and the first team for all three preseason games. There has been a chemistry that has developed between them that the team can't compromise this close to their season opening game.
"Carson and I obviously worked all offseason in OTA's an minicamps and everything so we had that to build on so it's kinda nice," said Parson. "It's exciting, you know. I started the last three preseason games so it's one of those things where it's kind of it's the exciting factor that it's opening night, Raiders season but it's another game. It's another game to prove yourself."
Parsons spent last season on the Raiders practice squad and offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, likes what he sees from Parsons and his progression as an NFL quality center.
"I can compare what I saw on tape last year in practice... I've seen progress in his technique," said Knapp. "He's done a fine job in improving his pass blocking skills. And that's usually the struggle for a young offensive lineman. And he's done a good job with the command of what we call spotting our line. Because of what we do in the zone run game, the center has a lot of responsibility of targeting us to the right linebacker or lineman, so he's done a fine job with that."
Wisniewski has been back practicing full this week and if called upon, he could go at center as well. But Parsons has been taking the bulk of the first team reps at center with just one day of practice remaining.
"It's been a good week with Wisniewski," said Knapp. "He came back and practiced full-term this week, so that's good for us. He'll definitely be in the mix. Him and Alex are competing for the starting spot right now, but they will both be up for the game to help us inside. We're going to evaluate them during the week how practice is going to decide who's the starting center, per se, and the other one will be the backup guard/center rotation guy."
The idea of a competition for the job for the Monday Night opener at this juncture seems of a difficult to fathom considering how few reps Wisniewski is taking with the first team. It seems unlikely they would spring that decision on either player so late in the week. There is one more practice left to see if the distribution of reps evens out but for now the team looks ready to roll with Parsons at center.