Rookie linebacker Neiron Ball had become a starter for the Raiders by week five. He was showing a lot of promise, especially in coverage, but the following week against the Chargers he went down with a knee injury. Soon after, Reggie McKenzie said the injury was similar to the one Benson Mayowa had suffered which kept him out the first four weeks of the season. Four weeks for Ball's injury passes two weeks ago and there have been no signs he is close to returning to the practice field.
Last week Jack Del Rio said that Ball's status was "still a question mark." This week, it sounds like Del Rio has at least gotten somewhat of an answer to that question, and it's not the answer he was hoping for.
"I think it will be tough for him to make it back," Del Rio said of Neiron Ball's status. "We keep trying. We'll see where it goes, but we've got a month left, we were hopeful we'd have him back by now and it doesn't look like that's gonna be the case. So, at some point we're gonna have to make a decision."
"You do the best you can in practice. Once it gets to this part of the season, you really try and help develop the young guys but a lot of times it comes on scout team and so when you do enough there to give you an opportunity, then we'll move you into defensive work."
As Del Rio notes, the season is in its final quarter now. And with the Raiders playoff hopes - as Del Rio noted - at Dumb & Dumber level odds, it's time to start thinking about adding and developing the young players who are available and shutting down players whose status is unclear. Much better than taking up a valuable roster spot or trying to rush them back and risk further injury.
Speaking of which, Del Rio also said the tests on Nate Allen's knee, which he injured in Sunday's game, came back negative and he is day-to-day depending on how sore he is.