You could see from Derek Carr’s demeanor that he knew he was through for the game after he injured his groin last Thursday night and wouldn’t be able to help the Las Vegas Raiders beat the Los Angeles Chargers, which they couldn’t do without him.
Carr leaned his head in regret against the grandstand at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas before heading to the locker room, but spent the second half rooting on the sideline for his backup, Marcus Mariota, as he tried to lead the Raiders past the Chargers before they lost, 30-27, in overtime.
This week, Carr told reporters that it was the worst he felt other than leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record and a wild card berth in 2016, before being unable to play in the playoffs because of a broken ankle.
“Besides breaking my ankle, that moment (against the Chargers) crushed my heart the most because of how I felt during the game, seeing the coverages, seeing what they were playing while I was in there, going down the field,” said Carr, who has been the Raiders starter since they selected him in the second round (No. 36 overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Fresno State.
“… I felt really good (against the Chargers). To know how bad we needed that game to keep things alive and hopeful for us and to have something happen to me that is out of my control, nothing I can do, I just went to sprint to the end zone and (his groin) it just went. I had to sit there and watch. My heart was ripped out of my chest, to say the least. It was a hard night for me.
“It was a hard couple days for me to be honest because with everything that has gone on with this team, I still felt even with all of that, we had a chance to win 10 games and try to make the playoffs. I still felt that way even with everything that we have dealt with. I still feel that way, that everything that we have dealt with, that we can still win nine games.
“Trust me, I would have been out there if I could have.”
Carr has practiced on a limited basis this week despite the injury and hopes to play on Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins (9-5) in Las Vegas as the Raiders (7-7) retain a slim chance to make the playoffs.
While he should be ready for the season finale next week against the Denver Broncos next week at Mile High Stadium, there would be no reason for the Raiders to play him besides they remain alive in the wild card race.
“Derek Carr, he practiced a little bit in a limited fashion, and both he and Marcus took turns at quarterback,” Coach Jon Gruden told reporters. “We’ll see how it goes this week.
“ … We watched (Carr) work out the last couple days and he’s jumping at the bit to play.
He’s one of the premier competitors in the league and it's important to him.
“And like I said, we’re emphasizing the word finish, and he wants to finish the job, no doubt. But we’re going to be smart. We’ve got a training staff here. We listen to our players and we’ll do what’s right. We’ll do what we think is right for Derek, and for our team, and I do admire his toughness and his will to compete.”
Carr, who has had his share of critics because the Raiders have not won consistently during his tenure, has completed 303-of-445 passes (68.1 percent) for 3,396 yards and 24 touchdowns this season with seven interceptions.
Twice this season, Carr has gone head-to-head with the man many believe in the best quarterback in the league, Patrick Mahomes. Both times, Carr outplayed the young man. Football is a team game, and Carr has been hampered by the bad defense while carrying the expectations of a playoff or bust franchise.
Three weeks ago, he led the Raiders on the 23rd game-winning drive of his career in the fourth quarter to beat the New York Jets, 31-28, with a 46-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III with five seconds left in the game.
No matter what anybody thinks of Carr, the man is a competitor, and he wants to be out there leading the Silver and Black, if at all possible. If the Raiders' playoff hopes were not alive, playing Carr would be foolish. But they are in the hunt, and if he gives the Silver and Black the best option to win with no danger of risking permanent damage, then Carr needs to be leading.
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