NAPA, CA - Any plans the Raiders had in turning Jacoby Ford into a West Coast version of Devin Hester have hit a snag.
First and foremost, Ford's got a bum left foot.
After catching a short pass in a 31-27 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Ford left the game and when he returned to the sideline, it was on crutches and wearing a protective boot.
It was probably a new boot, but it didn't have to be. Ford used one extensively last season when an injury to the same foot cost him six of Oakland's last seven games.
Coach Dennis Allen said tests "don't seem to indicate it's significant," but it's worth nothing Ford was on a week-to-week basis last season and the condition dragged on. By the time the season ended, Ford, who also had a broken hand and a hamstring injury, had played in only eight games with three starts.
That came after a rookie season in which Ford, a fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson, caught 25 passes for 478 yards and also returned a team-record three kickoffs for touchdowns.
Ford added a fourth kickoff return touchdown last season. That tied him with Andre Coleman (San Diego, 1994-95), Hester (Chicago, 2006-07), Travis Williams (Green Bay 1969-70), and Derrick Vaughn (Atlanta 2000-01) as players who had four kickoff returns for touchdowns in two seasons).
The hope was Ford would stay healthy this season and approach Gale Sayers' record of six kickoff returns for touchdowns in three seasons. In theory, he would also would be in the rotation of wide receivers along with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore, and would also return punts for the first time since college.
It would give the Raiders a Hester-like presence, although Ford preferred to personalize it.
"I want to play a Jacoby Ford role," Ford said. "I want to do anything I can to help our team win."
Things were promising after a strong training camp heading into the preseason opener, a desultory 3-0 Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
However, Ford dropped the first two passes Carson Palmer threw his way, muffed a punt out of bounds and was pinned at the 14-yard line on a kick return.
"I definitely did not want to come out and put anything on film like that," Ford said. "But you know, games like that happen, and that's why you've got to have a short term memory and put games like that behind you."
Said Allen: "He didn't play up to our expectations. It's one football game. It's not the end of the world."
Palmer said the Dallas drops were the first two he could recall in dozens of passes to Ford during training camp.
It's not known how long Ford would be out following his latest foot injury. Allen said the Raiders would be scanning the waiver wire. When asked if Ford could not only miss the final two preseason games but also the start of the regular season on Sept. 10 against San Diego, Allen conceded he didn't know.
"I don't know the answer to that," Allen said. "Is there a chance? Yeah, there's a chance. We still got to continue to look at it and see what type of time frame we're looking at."
Ford was hoping to put his injury issues behind him.
"When I was healthy I was effective," Ford said. "The freak injuries, that was something I couldn't control. I'm looking past that. That was a tough season. I'm focusing on Year 3."