The Raiders could have to do a bit of scrambling this week if punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins’ injured shoulder doesn’t heal quickly. Rookie wide receiver Nick Miller, who is behind Higgins on the depth chart, revealed Wednesday he has a fractured shin in his right leg and will be out 4-6 weeks.
Miller underwent a bone scan this week attended practiced and watched while using a pair of crutches before hobbling off the field as the players called it a day.
“It’s actually broken, it’s not just shin splints,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t sit out for shin splints. Should be four to six weeks, just depending on my healing process. I just gotta stay off of it as much as possible and I’ll be back soon.”
With Miller out and Higgins hobbling, the Raiders were scurrying to find a suitable replacement. Safety Hiram Eugene and Louis Rankin shared time returning punts in the early part of practice, though neither looked very promising. One punt sailed right through Eugene’s outstretches arms while another bounced five feet to his left after Higgins had called for a fair catch.
Afterward, head coach Tom Cable said the Raiders are also exploring the idea of using veteran wide receiver Javon Walker.
“We would go with Hiram, and probably Javon Walker in that role,” Cable said. “Then we’ll see when we get closer where Johnnie’s at.”
Cable cited the fact that Walker returned punts earlier in his career but according to ProFootballReference.com, Walker has never returned punts in the NFL but did have 35 kickoff returns for 769 yards (22.0 average) as a rookie in 2002.
Whoever is returning punts against the Chiefs this week won’t have any restrictions, according to Cable.
“You gotta have your return game, and you gotta do your deal,” Cable said. “Hiram’s a terrific catcher, and probably the best of the group in that regard. And then obviously with Javon having done it earlier in his career, it’s a benefit to us now that with the injuries, he’s gonna be active this week, play, all those things. So we’ll have him available.”