ALAMEDA (AP) — Oakland Raiders Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn is expected to get on the field for at least a few plays this week after ending his lengthy contract holdout.
Penn stayed away from the team for 26 days before finally reporting on Wednesday just as practice started. Penn practiced again on Thursday and is expected to travel with the team to Dallas before Saturday night’s exhibition game against the Cowboys.
“We’ll get him a few reps,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re not going to play him long, but we’ll probably get him a few reps in the game.”
Del Rio didn’t overplay Penn’s importance, saying his return added “depth” to the line.
Penn was looking for an improved contract but general manager Reggie McKenzie said earlier in training camp that he would not negotiate a new deal with Penn until he arrived at camp.
The 34-year-old Penn is entering the final year of an $11.9 million, two-year contract. He is scheduled to earn $5.8 million in base salary this season with another $1.3 million in incentives and bonuses.
Penn turned down interview requests.
Penn is coming off his second Pro Bowl season after being part of an offensive line that allowed a league-low 18 sacks in 2017. Penn allowed only one sack in 2016, during Week 16 against Indianapolis, but it led to a season-ending broken leg for quarterback Derek Carr.
Penn has been extremely durable in his career and has played all 160 regular-season games since making his debut as an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay in 2007.
Penn returned to the team in good shape after working out on his own in Southern California and has more than two weeks to get into peak condition before the season opener at Tennessee on Sept. 10.
“There’s a difference between game conditioning and football conditioning and being in shape,” Del Rio said. “He’s in shape. He’s a veteran guy. He understands what he needs to do. So physically, he’s in condition now. It’s a matter of him going through the timing of getting his body in sync with the demands of what we do. We’ll ease him in, give him a little bit this weekend. We gave him a little bit through the week of practice and we’ll be ready to roll.”
During Penn’s absence, free-agent acquisition Marshall Newhouse took over at left tackle. Newhouse was signed to take over at right tackle and will move back there now in place of Vadal Alexander.
The Raiders also will likely have another key player back on the field Saturday in safety Obi Melifonwu, a second-round pick who missed the first two exhibition games with an undisclosed injury.
Melifonwu had a good week of practice, according to Del Rio, and is expected to provide a needed boost to a secondary that has struggled so far this preseason.
The Raiders are still waiting to get their first-round pick on the field. Cornerback Gareon Conley has been sidelined since injuring his shin during minicamp in June and has not practiced all summer.
Conley was working out on the field with training staff after practice and the team is hopeful he will be cleared to return soon. The team hopes the work he has done in meeting rooms, film sessions and watching practice will make for a quick transition once he’s healthy.
“He’s been real in-tune to everything,” cornerback David Amerson said. “Always taking notes, asking questions, paying attention outside on the practice field. I’ve told him and a couple of older guys have told him to stay in-tune. Control what you can control. Physically, you’re hurt right now but mentally, you’ve got to be locked in and getting the mental reps to be prepared. He’s doing all the right things. I think as far as what he can do right now, he’s doing a great job.”
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