A frustrating situation hit a head Thursday when the Las Vegas Raiders placed star tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow on the injured reserve. Waller has been dealing with a hamstring injury that has been bothering him since Week 5, while Renfrow suffered an oblique injury.
Waller will miss, at least, four more games. He is eligible to return Dec. 8 at the Los Angeles Rams. He has already missed three games after getting hurt on the first drive against the Chiefs. Waller, who is 30 and who signed a contract extension just before the start of the season, has missed eight of the past 15 games and that will extend to, at least, 12 of 19 games.
Initially, Waller said he didn’t think he would be out long. He has been practicing in the past few weeks and was a game-time decision the past two weeks.
He has just 16 catches this season. Foster Moreau will be the starting tight end with Waller out. He is a free agent after this season.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said Wednesday that he expected Waller to practice, but he gave no promises about when he will next play.
McDaniels didn’t have a lot of concrete answers Wednesday in regards if Waller will be able to play at home Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I think we’re in the same boat. I think you’ll see him today and hopefully we take another step forward,” McDaniels said. ”I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a medical degree. It’s very difficult to predict some of these things. Muscles and those kinds of things are always a little tricky, especially for a player that his number one skill, or one of his certain top traits, is his ability to run and open up and go. There’s no timetable. Some guys come back a little quicker than others. At the end of the day, the reality is if you come back too quickly from one of these, you usually end up out longer. So, we’re just trying to let his body tell us when the right time is, and hopefully that’s sooner rather than later. But we just can’t do it magically, snap our fingers and make it go away. We’ll give it another shot this week and hopefully we can turn a corner.”
After practice, Waller told The Athletic that he feels like he needs to practice multiple times fully to be able to play in a game and not worry about aggravating the injury.
Waller on what it'll take for him to return for the #Raiders: "I just got to be able to go through a whole practice — we practice almost two full hours — and then be able to string multiple practice days in a row together before you step out there and play in a game...— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) November 10, 2022
Now, Waller will be out for an extended time for the 2-6 Raiders.
UPDATE 11:04 a.m.:
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that wide receiver Hunter Renfrow will join Waller on injured reserve today. Renfrow has suffered several injuries this year, including a concussion that held him out of Weeks 3 and 4, and an oblique injury, as Schefter notes, will keep him out for at least the next four games.
And one more: Raiders also are placing WR Hunter Renfrow on injured reserve due to his oblique injury, per source. So on the same day, both Renfrow and Darren Waller both are being placed on IR, meaning they’re out at least four games each.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 10, 2022
The wideout signed a two-year $31.7 million contract extension in the offseason and has only managed to haul in 21 catches for 192 and no touchdowns in six games played. Injuries have played a factor in his underwhelming production, but he’s only had two 50-yard or more outings and none over the 60-yard mark this season.
Schefter also pointed out that the Raiders' “Big Four” on offense — Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Waller and Renfrow — have only been on the field together for a total of 43 plays. Obviously, that’s less than ideal as bringing in Adams was supposed to give the Silver and Black the best trio of pass catchers in the NFL, but they haven’t played together enough for that to come to fruition, and that won’t be changing anytime soon this season, if at all.
Renfrow’s absence should mean more targets for fellow wide receiver Mack Hollins and potentially, a bigger role for second-year slot receiver and returner, DJ Turner. Granted, Keelan Cole has taken the majority of the reps on the inside when Renfrow has been out earlier in the year. The Raiders also have wideouts Isaiah Zuber, Albert Wilson, Malik Turner and Chris Lacy at their disposal on the practice squad.
UPDATE 12:20 p.m.:
Hollister played for Josh McDaniels with the New England Patriots in 2017 and 2018 and was with the Raiders during training camp, so he should be familiar with the playbook and scheme.