ALAMEDA — Raiders defensive end LaMarr Woodley has a serious biceps injury and could miss the remainder of the season.
Woodley has not practiced since getting injured in Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Interim coach Tony Sparano wouldn’t discuss the specific nature of Woodley’s situation but acknowledged it is a long-term injury.
“Yeah, it’s long-term,” Sparano said Thursday. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s not. We’ll make that announcement here whenever we’re ready to make it. We don’t have to do that but for me to sit here and tell you it’s not [serious], no, I can’t do that.”
The 29-year-old Woodley was one of the Raiders’ prized acquisitions this past offseason. He and fellow defensive end Justin Tuck were signed to lucrative deals as part of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s plan to bring in veterans with championship experience.
It hasn’t worked out so well for winless Oakland.
Woodley has five tackles in six games and is without a sack. Tuck has 12 tackles and one sack but has been slowed by a knee injury. Oakland’s defense in general has struggled despite McKenzie’s efforts to revamp the unit.
The Raiders head into Sunday’s home game at Cleveland ranked 22nd in total defense and 29th against the run. They’re last in third-down efficiency and have just six sacks — only three by defensive linemen.
Losing Woodley is just the latest setback for a defense that appeared to be much improved coming out of training camp.
C.J. Wilson and Benson Mayowa will likely split playing time while filling in for Woodley. Wilson leads the Raiders with two sacks.
“More guys are going to get an opportunity,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “Some of them haven’t been able to show what they can do yet. It’s a good opportunity for them.”
“Benson went in and did some good things. He set edges well, he affected the quarterback some in that game, so it was good to see him step up into that role.
How long Woodley — who inked a two-year deal worth $12 million — is out is uncertain, though Sparano’s tone and demeanor made it sound as if the veteran defender will be gone a significant amount of time, if not the entire season.
Partially torn biceps have an average recovery time of three to four weeks. Full tears requiring surgery require three to four months.
“Defensively throughout this year it’s been next man up and that’s what it is,” Tarver said. “We’re going to have to roll guys (in) but the physicality, somebody’s going to have to step up. We’ll see who that is.”
Mayowa had been getting work in as a backup to Tuck before sliding to defensive end when Woodley went out against the Cardinals. He was in on 34 defensive plays against Arizona and another 15 on special teams.
“That’s more snaps than I’ve ever had,” Mayowa said. “I knew I was going to take more snaps but I didn’t know I was going to take that many. Unfortunately, Woodley went down so I had to step up.”
Sparano expects to use a rotation of players in Woodley’s place.
Notes: With Khalif Barnes back at practice this week, the Raiders have been experimenting with Menelik Watson at left tackle. Watson, a second-round draft pick in 2013, started the previous two games at right tackle while Barnes recovered from a quad injury. … CB Carlos Rogers (knee) was limited in practice after sitting out Wednesday.