ALAMEDA, Calif. - Oakland linebacker Miles Burris practiced for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in January, and second-round pick Menelik Watson joined him on the field after missing nearly a month.
Slowly but surely, the line in the Raiders' training room is thinning out.
The timing is right, too.
Coach Dennis Allen's team is in the midst of a five-week stretch playing against opponents with sub-.500 records. The Raiders have won two of their last three and can get back to a break-even point by beating Philadelphia on Sunday.
"I thought both of those guys looked fairly decent out there at practice," Allen said Wednesday. "We'll continue to evaluate them as the week goes on but that was good to see, to have those guys back out there. Those guys can help us."
The Raiders have had a long list of injured players almost since the season began, most of them offensive linemen. The outlook is a bit more promising now.
Getting Watson, the 42nd overall pick in the draft, back to practice gives Oakland some much-needed depth up front. Starting right tackle Tony Pashos and backup centre/left guard Andre Gurode both sat out last week's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers while hurt.
Even left tackle Jared Veldheer, out since early in training camp, received encouraging news regarding his triceps injury.
Veldheer flew to Los Angeles earlier this week to meet with his doctor and was told his recovery is right on track.
"Everything's going good," said Veldheer, who had started 42 consecutive games for the Raiders before getting hurt during a training camp practice. "It's on track with everything. It's getting close, that's the exciting part."
Burris started 15 games as a rookie in 2012 but had been on the physically unable to perform list before getting cleared to practice this week.
The Raiders now have three weeks to decide whether to add Burris to the 53-man roster. They have an exemption on the 2012 fourth-round draft pick until then.
"(We're) getting an opportunity to get him out here and actually go through some football activity and see where he's at movement-wise, see where he's at conditioning-wise," Allen said. "That will be a big factor as to when and if we decide to bring him up to the active roster."
Burris set a franchise rookie record with 138 tackles last season while playing weakside linebacker. Now he's taking reps at all three linebacker positions and will also get work on special teams before the team makes its decision.
"Feels great to be back out with the team," Burris said. "I was able to go pretty much full-go. It's just the other parts of the game, getting back out there and feeling everything and seeing things and just reacting.
"My biggest goal is to get back on that 53 and contribute any way I can."
Watson had been getting work at left tackle with Oakland's starting offence after Veldheer went down. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound native of Manchester, England, will continue to get work there and as a backup to Matt McCants at right tackle until Pashos is cleared to practice.
Watson's return comes one week after centre Stefen Wisniewski rejoined practice following a two-game absence.
"With some of the depth issues that we have on the offensive line, he could potentially be forced into action sooner than maybe we would normally want," Allen said. "We just have to evaluate how he goes through practice, where he's at mentally as well as where he's at physically."
Notes: Pashos (hip flexor) and Gurode (quad) joined safety Tyvon Branch as the only players absent from practice. "I don't expect them to be out a whole lot longer," Allen said. "But you never know how these things can go, whether there's any type of setback in the rehab process or whatever. I'm hopeful that they'll be back soon."
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