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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders will be without their top two running backs for Sunday's game in Baltimore after Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson missed a third consecutive day of practice.

Both players suffered high ankle sprains in last week's loss to Tampa Bay and have been wearing walking boots since then.

Coach Dennis Allen had been hopeful of getting at least one of the two back in time to play the Ravens. Now the Raiders will have to lean on a seldom-used third-string running back and a converted fullback to get the running game going.

``(Neither) of them made enough progress this week that they were able to be up,'' Allen said Friday. ``We'll probably be going through the same thing next week and we'll see where we're at.''

This marks the 14th game in five seasons McFadden has missed because of injuries. The fourth overall pick in 2008, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule since entering the NFL.

McFadden was injured early in the first quarter against the Buccaneers when his left ankle bent awkwardly following a short gain. He remained in the game and continued to play before leaving for good with about nine minutes left in the first half.

Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who has played primarily on special teams this season, and fullback Marcel Reece have been splitting reps in practice with Oakland's first team offense while McFadden and Goodson are sidelined. The team has also discussed the possibility of activating former Stanford running back Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.

``Of course I'm very excited,'' Jones said. ``You've gotta be patient in this league. I've been waiting for my opportunity and it's here, so I'm going to try to make the most of it.''

Jones, who sat out the final six games of 2011 with a hamstring injury, has only one carry for two yards this year. He began the season as the Raiders kickoff returner but fumbled in his first play of the opener against San Diego.

Since then, Jones has seen very little playing time in the backfield but has emerged as Oakland's leading tackler on special teams.

Now that he's back on offense, the speedy Jones will pair with Reece in an attempt to spark a running game that ranks 31st in the NFL.

``I'm very aware that I'm not Darren McFadden,'' Jones said. ``The coaches, they do a good job of putting me in positions and giving me plays for what I can bring to the table. I'm not trying to be Darren McFadden or anyone else.''

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) will also miss the game. Desmond Bryant, who was pulled from last week's loss to Tampa Bay because of an irregular heartbeat, will start in Seymour's place.

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) has also been declared out while right tackle Khalif Barnes is questionable with a groin injury.

Notes: Stewart, an undrafted free agent who scored nine touchdowns during his senior season at Stanford in 2011, will accompany the team on the trip to Baltimore but a decision on his status probably won't be made until game time. ... Allen said he expects to activate cornerback Ron Bartell from the temporary injured reserve list before Sunday's game. Bartell, who has been out with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1, will start if he's added to the 53-man roster. ... While the rest of his teammates were preparing for the short bus trip to the Oakland airport, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey went out to the practice field to catch passes from a Juggs machine. After leading the team in receptions a year ago, the former first-round pick has just 19 catches this season.

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Ravens' Ronnie Stanley question mark for Week 4 after missing third straight practice

Ravens' Ronnie Stanley question mark for Week 4 after missing third straight practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens coach John Harbaugh would not rule out rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley for Sunday’s game against the Raiders, although Stanley (foot) missed his third consecutive practice Friday.

James Hurst remained the likely replacement for Stanley if he could not play. Stanley has been very solid in the first three games of his NFL career, and his presence protecting quarterback Joe Flacco's blindside would be missed.

Stanley was not in the locker room after practice. Asked if Stanley’s injury could linger for a significant period, Harbaugh said, “I don’t see it that way, from what I’ve been told. I still think he has a chance for Sunday. You’ll see the (injury) report coming out later, but we’re not going to rule him out.”

Meanwhile, left guard Alex Lewis (concussion) was back at practice Friday, which was really a walkthrough, after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Harbaugh sounded optimistic Lewis would play if he continued to pass concussion protocol.

“I think Lewis is fine if he cleared the concussion (protocol)," Harbaugh said. "It wouldn’t be a game-time (decision) in his case, if that’s true, and I’m assuming it is.”

If Lewis could not play, Ryan Jensen would likely be the starting left guard.

MORE RAVENS: West looking to 'get into the groove'

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Is a running back committee approach hurting the Ravens' run game?

Is a running back committee approach hurting the Ravens' run game?

The Ravens are dissecting every aspect of their struggling running game, but Terrance West, for one, thinks one issue might be the inconsistent workload.

West is the team's leading rusher through three games, with a pedestrian total of 119 yards on 33 carries (3.6 avg.). Justin Forsett has carried 31 times for 98 yards (3.2 avg.). Buck Allen, last year's starter after Forsett was injured, has yet to see the field, a healthy scratch in the first three games. Overall, the Ravens rank 26th in rushing overall, and 30th in yards per carry (3.25).

Forsett has been the starter in each game this season, with West subbing in for limited duty. Last week, West played 17 of 67 offensive snaps.

"To be honest, it’s hard. As a running back, you have to get into the groove," West said earlier this week. "You get stronger as the game goes. You have to feel the defense out, but you still have to take advantage of the opportunities no matter what when your number is called, so there’s no excuses.”

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Coach John Harbaugh said early in training camp that the team would go with the hot hand at running back, and that could change each game.

Forsett has said that he, like every back, wants to be the workhorse. He joked that he didn't know what "running back by committee" meant. But through three games, neither Forsett nor West has made the compelling case that he deserves the majority of the workload. In the first two games, neither had a run longer than 11 yards. West's 15-yard run at Jacksonville is now the longest of the season.

 The Ravens figure to continue to use the committee approach at running back, especially once injured rookie Kenneth Dixon returns. He has been out since the third preseason game with a knee injury but returned to practice this week.

Asked about the struggling run game -- and Forsett's role as the starter -- Harbaugh said, "You look at everything. The main thing we look at first is ourselves. What can we do scheme-wise? How can we block it better? How can the backs read it better? How can they run better? It would be every aspect of our run game that we’re looking at."

West said the competition from Forsett, from Allen, from Dixon, should make them all better.

“When another player goes in there and busts a big run, you’re telling yourself, ‘Now I have to go and bust a big run.’" he said. "It’s competition, but at the same time, we’re just trying to help this team win in any way. That’s why we’re 3-0 right now.”

"We just have to take it back to the practice field and take it one play at a time," West added. "The running game is going to bust open. We just have to be patient, and when it happens, we have to take advantage of it.”

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