Raiders go with fourth new starting center in four years

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders already have a new quarterback this season. Now they have a new starting center, too.

Rookie Jared Veldheer spent nearly all of training camp practicing at left tackle but beat out incumbent Samson Satele after moving to center and will be in the starting lineup when the Raiders open the season against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 12.

Veldheer, a third-round draft pick who played at Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan, is Oakland's fourth different opening day starting center in four years.

"I'm just very excited with the opportunity and I can't wait to play (against the Titans)," Veldheer said after practice Sunday. "All I did when I got here was worked as hard as I could at any position they put me at. I knew that would take me to where I needed to be."

He was expected to push Mario Henderson for the left tackle job in training camp before the Raiders moved him. The 6-foot-8, 315-pound Veldheer started only one game at center in the preseason and was held out of Oakland's 27-24 win over Seattle on Thursday when the team rested most of its starters.

Coach Tom Cable cited Veldheer's size as a key factor in starting the rookie ahead of Satele.

"The fact that he has it in his background, the fact that it was a need for our team, and then when you first start to do it with him how natural he was at it," Cable said. "You probably have a bigger, physical presence for sure just because what he is physically that way. But you're giving up some experience."

Veldheer joins quarterback Jason Campbell as the two newcomers to Oakland's offense. Both joined their new team on the same day, Campbell via trade from Washington while Veldheer was the Raiders' third-round draft pick.

Because of Veldheer's position change late in the preseason, he and Campbell haven't spent much time together. Neither expects that to be much of an issue when Oakland plays Tennessee in the opener.

"We've just got to work together, work together, do what we have to do to make our calls and make sure everyone is on the same page and do as much as we can to help him," Campbell said. "He's a tall guy, so sometimes that can cause problems for a defense. He's a rookie, and we've got to stick behind him ... and make him feel comfortable."

Satele, acquired from Miami in exchange for a pair of draft picks before last season, missed a chunk of training camp because of a sore ankle. He missed the 2009 season opener with an injury but started 12 games after replacing Chris Morris.

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Oakland still isn't saying whether running back Michael Bush will play against the Titans. Bush suffered a broken thumb against the 49ers and underwent surgery. He wore a thick white cast on his left hand Sunday while working out and running on his own.

The team is also staying quiet regarding its linebackers. Trevor Scott, who started eight games at weakside linebacker, played at defensive end against the Seahawks. Quentin Groves started against Seattle and has been practicing with the Raiders' starting unit.

"We're working on a couple of things," Cable said. "I think Wednesday some of that stuff will get cleared up. We're just kind of experimenting with some things right now to make sure we get the right 11 guys on the field. That's the most important thing to us."

The Raiders added seven players to their practice squad: safety Stevie Brown, cornerback Joey Porter, wide receiver Shaun Bodiford, offensive lineman Alex Parsons, fullback Manase Tonga, linebacker Slade Norris and defensive tackle Kellen Heard.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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