You have to feel bad for Chaz Schilens.
A Raider fan favourite for what he can do when he actually is on the field, the big, fast, dynamic wideout may yet again be sidelined with an injury.
With considerable size, speed, great hands, and a productive career at San Diego State, the only knock on Schilens coming out of college was that he was injury prone. It was enough of a concern that a player with his measurables and tangible production at a top tier Division I school dropped to the seventh round in the 2008 draft.
Midway through the season, with Schilens snagging 15 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns in limited action, Schilens looked like a future star in the making.
He showed why the Raiders considered him their number one receiver going into the 2009 season with a productive first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in preseason, snaring four passes.
But shortly thereafter, Schilens broke his left foot in training camp and missed the first eight games of the 2009 season. With JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, this was a devastating blow to an already anemic passing game.
Showing how valuable he is to the team, Schilens came back in the Raiders ninth game and went on to collect 29 catches over eight games for 365 yards and 2 TDs, and 17 first downs. Although Louis Murphy had emerged as a downfield threat, Chaz was the biggest weapon for possession and in the red zone.
But he was never fully recovered from his foot injury, and the Raider Nation was disappointed to hear that he had another surgery on the foot in the offseason to repair some lingering damage.
By all indications the foot was fine, but Schilens had missed signifcant practice time recently without much of an explanation. The Raider Nation assumed it was Coach Tom Cable playing it safe, knowing how important Schilens is to the Raiders' passing game and how much new quarterback Jason Campbell would need his number one receiver come the start of the season.
Now we find out that Schilens is again injured, and the extent is as of yet unknown. Schilens went to see a specialist Monday to find out if he needs arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Coach Cable expressed his empathy for Schilens' long battle in a Q & A session Monday:
"I’m very concerned. It’s been a tough road for him. We get through the foot thing now and something else has kind of reared up on us. We’ll take care of it and get him back as soon as we can."
When asked if anything happened on the field to cause the injury, Cable pointed at Schilens' difficulty with his foot as a likely culprit:
"It sounds like something that was overcompensation for the foot to be honest with you."
Coach Cable did leave an optimistic door open for a potential Schilens return sooner than later. When asked if this was a minor scope that could be a couple of weeks rehabilitation, and if Schilens may be ready for the opener, Cable didn't go into detail but said "that's the hope, that's the hope."
Cable also said that the play of guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Jonnie Lee Higgins, Nick Miller and Louis Murphy make him more comfortable going into the season without Schilens than it could be had those guys not shown well in camp.
So it may not be as devastating as it could be. Other players have had minor knee scopes and come back quickly, and even stronger than before. With Schilens' track record however, that's borderline fanatical with optimism, but I'm still holding out hope that this isn't serious and it finally shores up his legs for the long haul of an NFL season; with hopefully a major haul of TD passes from Jason Campbell.
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