En route to being the toughest defense in the NFL to score against, the unbeaten Los Angeles Raiders have lost four defensive starters to injuries and haven't missed a beat.
Or have they?"Hopefully, this rash of injuries will stop and we can hold on until we start getting some people back," Raiders coach Art Shell said Monday.
The Raiders went into Sunday's 24-10 win over Chicago with Pro Bowl defensive end Howie Long and cornerback Garry Lewis sidelined.
Strong safety Mike Harden's neck strain was too sore for him to suit up. Elvis Patterson subbed for Harden and wound up leading the Raider defense in tackles.
And early in the first quarter, defensive tackle Mike Wise suffered a sprained ankle when Chicago's Jimbo Covert rolled onto his leg and was gone for the day. Mike Charles and Bill Pickel split playing time and shared a sack.
Shell said the fact the Raiders (4-0) have allowed just 35 points in four weeks, despite the injuries, speaks well for the team.
"We have more depth and better personnel here than we had last year," he said.
With Wise out, the Raiders are down to just five defensive linemen for four spots in practice this week. Wise said doctors told him he can't practice, but he might be cleared to play Sunday night against the Bills at Buffalo.
"What we have here is an attitude that we'll do whatever we have to do to win," Shell said. "Injuries hurt, but you have to rally together and do whatever it takes. That's what this team has done so far."
Shell also reacted to printed and broadcast reports that of the five NFL teams that were 3-0 last week, his was "the weakest 3-0 team."
Said Shell: "You read things and you hear things . . . that people don't respect you. But we don't care that other people respect us. It's just important that we respect ourselves and care about each other."
The Raiders signed former sixth-round draft choice Marcus Wilson as their first practice player under the just enacted NFL rules. Wilson, drafted as a running back from Virginia, will double at defensive back.