ALAMEDA, Calif.--Whatever happened to Juron Criner?
Turns out he's still on the Raiders, although you'll never find him in uniform on Sundays.
A fifth-round draft pick in 2012, Criner made an initial offseason splash as a rookie before settling in to a regular season that saw him play in 12 games with 16 receptions for 151 yards and one touchdown.'
Criner's been a forgotten man in 2013, inactive for all six games and No.6 on a sixth-man depth chart. When Andre Holmes returned from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs, he immediately moved past Criner and has played 18 snaps.
At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, Criner has the kind of physicality and leaping ability that would be useful both for first downs and touchdowns. In college at Arizona, Criner set a school record with 32 touchdown receptions.
Criner conceded some level of frustration Monday but said: "I'm a young guy. I've got time. They have other options they're going to right now. I can't do anything but respect that. If I let it get me down, it will only put me further under."
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Criner will play when his practice performance suggests that he should.
"The players really determine who plays," Allen said. "The guys that go out and practice the best, the guys that make the most plays in practice and make the most plays in the game, those are the guys that play."
The Raiders' issue with Criner is similar to one they have had at times with Denarius Moore, who recently has strung together four solid games.
"(Criner) is an athletic guy, he's a big guy, he's got good hands," Allen said. "But he's got to be able to do it on a more consistent basis."
Criner said he has some work to do.
"My practice habits are definitely getting a lot better," Criner said. "It's helping me a lot being in this situation and having to take practice a lot more serious. It's definitely helping me as a player."
--Monday, on the first practice after the bye, the Raiders offensive line resembled the same patchwork unit that struggled against Kansas City.
There was no sign of right tackle Tony Pashos, center-guard Andre Gurode or rookie tackle Menelik Watson. Center Stefen Wisniewski was doing agility drills with the athletic training staff, meaning he might be back Wednesday at least in limited fashion.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer looks to be at least an additional week away from getting back on the practice field as he rehabs a surgically repaired left triceps. He isn't eligible to play in a game until Nov.3 against Philadelphia, although that might be a bit ambitious.
The Raiders were lining up with Khalif Barnes at left tackle, Lucas Nix at left guard, Mike Brisiel and Lamar Mady at either center or right guard and Matt McCants at right tackle.
With the Raiders not required to give an injury report until Wednesday, Allen declined to discuss how the line might may shake out as the week goes on.
"I'm hopeful we'll get some guys back, but we'll know more Wednesday," Allen said.
Barnes, who along with Brisiel are the only two linemen who have been able to stay on the field through six games, wasn't sure how the line look.
"I'm not sure," Barnes said. "It's too early to tell. I just know guys are in there busting their tail trying to get healthy and get back. I'm not really sure. I just go by whenever they get back out there."
--Allen said the Raiders used the Monday practice as introduction to Pittsburgh, with preparations beginning in earnest Wednesday after taking Tuesday off.
--It appears the Raiders will go through this week with just Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin as quarterbacks on the roster with Tyler Wilson on the practice squad.
--The bye week, Allen said, gave players a chance to contemplate the first portion of the season and assess how to successfully move forward.
"You've got a pretty good sample size of what you've done well and what you need to improve on," Allen said.
--With the A's season having concluded, the Raiders will play their first game of the season without a dirt infield.
--Fullback Marcel Reece and some teammates will visit Westlake Middle School in Oakland on Tuesday as part of the United Way's "Hometown Huddle" campaign.
The emphasis of the visit will be to get kids to make healthy exercise and eating a lifetime focus.
(c)2013 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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