The Oakland Raiders finally might be getting one of the anchors of their defense back.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch returned to practice this week for the first time since breaking his right leg Sept. 15 against Jacksonville.
Branch is still limited at practice but hopes to be able to play Sunday against the New York Jets. Branch was one of only two returning starters on Oakland’s overhauled defense but only played one game before getting hurt in the first quarter against the Jaguars in Week 2.
While Brandian Ross is still slated to start this week, Branch could get some time, which would provide a big boost for the Raiders (4-8), who have lost four of their last five games.
Kerley back with Jets
New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley fully participated in practice for the first time since dislocating his left elbow last month and is expected to play Sunday against the Raiders.
Kerley was injured against New Orleans on Nov. 3 when he was on the ground and the Saints’ David Hawthorne slammed into his elbow. Coach Rex Ryan says Thursday that Kerley “looked outstanding” in practice. Kerley leads the Jets with 28 catches, despite missing four games.
Fellow receiver Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (knee) were both limited, but Ryan expects them to play. The Jets haven’t had all three on the field together since Week 4.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie (hip) and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (wrist) also were limited, but will play.
Reed not ready to retire
New York Jets safety Ed Reed hopes to play another two years in the NFL, and doesn’t worry about critics who say he isn’t playing up to his usual high standards.
Reed, signed by the Jets last month after he was released by the Houston Texans, has started his first three games with New York. While he hasn’t made any game-turning plays, both coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman say his impact behind the scenes with the team’s young defensive backs has been immeasurable.
Reed says he is being judged on the field for a standard that he created himself during a dominant 11 years in Baltimore. He adds that he believes he’s still “effective” despite being only a few months removed from a second hip surgery.
Dennard stays out of jail
A Lincoln, Neb., judge handed New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard another year of probation and 30 additional days in jail Thursday as a result of a drinking-and-driving incident in Nebraska last summer.
Dennard last April was sentenced to two years of probation and 30 days in jail for assaulting a police officer outside a Lincoln bar in 2012. He admitted he violated his probation three months later when he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.
Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy extended his probation from two to three years and his jail term from 30 to 60 days. He is to report to the county jail March 1. She also barred him from consuming or possessing alcohol and increased his mandatory community service from 200 to 300 hours, with half of the additional 100 hours to be performed in Nebraska. Stacy could have revoked Dennard’s probation and sent him to jail.
Jaguars 27, Texans 20
Chad Henne threw touchdown passes to Mercedes Lewis and Cecil Shorts III to spark Jacksonville to an early 14-0 lead and the host Jaguars held on to beat the Houston Texans.
The Jaguars (4-9) led 24-10 midway through the third quarter. The Texans (2-11) pulled within 24-20 on Garrett Graham’s touchdown and Randy Bullock’s 31-yard field goal with 11:34 to play, but the Jaguars held on for their second win in five days.