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Mutual admiration between Raiders’ Carr, Chargers’ Rivers

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his San Diego Chargers counterpart, Philip Rivers, are fans of each other.

“He’s one of the best,” Carr said of Rivers. “The guy puts the ball wherever he wants. You hear some people say, ‘He forced that one.’ No. He made a great throw and did exactly what he wanted to do. The guy is unbelievable. He’s a joy to watch unless you’re playing against him.”

Rivers has seen Carr enough to know his teammates will follow the leader.

“I don’t really know him, but I’ll give you my two cents,” Rivers told Bay Area writers by conference call. “I felt like even as a rookie he had the demeanor … he looks like he can get guys to follow him and get guys to go play. He looks like a guy who can make a group around him better and go.”

–Raiders cornerback David Amerson grew up in Greensboro, N.C., where one of his basketball opponents was Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.

In high school, Amerson’s Dudley High team beat the North Guilford High squad of Allen 12-7. When the two faced off as rookies, Amerson’s Washington Redskins beat the Chargers 30-24.

The two have trained together, and Amerson knows better than to think Allen’s hip injury will be a factor against the Raiders.

“Knowing Keenan, he’s a competitor,” Amerson said. “He’s going to come out and play hard.”

–The Raiders hope to get their return game going with the signing of Walt Powell off the practice squad of the Buffalo Bills, with an added bonus of Taiwan Jones returning from a foot injury.

Powell, an experienced return specialist for both kickoffs and punts, got some work in during the Raiders bye week.

“I got out here Thursday, am returning punts and kicks and learning the offense as fast as I can,” Powell said. “I hope I can come in and be a spark.”

The Raiders have returned 236 punts (not including fair catches) since Johnnie Lee Higgins last got into the end zone on an 80-yard return in 2008.

The last kickoff return for a touchdown was in 2011, by Jacoby Ford, and there have been 181 returns since that score.

“I’m dying to get in the end zone,” Jones said. “It’s an added spark for the offense. That’s what special teams is here to do is send that spark to carry us through a game. You look at the film, it’s always just a missed block or a missed read. We’re real close to breaking one.”

Jones averaged 30.3 yards on four returns before being sidelined by a foot injury. He is also the Raiders’ top gunner on both punts and kickoffs.

–Carr received plenty of support from former NFL players on the league-run web site when asked who was the NFL’s top quarterback under the age of 25. That essentially put Carr in competition with Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles.

Bortles was the first of the three players drafted, going No.3 overall to the Jaguars, followed by Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel at No. 22 and Bridgewater No. 32 to the Vikings as the final pick in the first round.

Carr went to the Raiders in the second round, No. 36 overall.

“Derek Carr has the most experience and he seems like he has the best grasp of the offense he’s running,” Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders said.

“Derek Carr reminds me a little of Brett Favre. He’s got a little grit to him and a certain toughness. He’s a natural-born leader and has all the intangibles,” former NFL coach Steve Mariucci said.

“I’d build my team around Derek Carr,” said running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who played with Carr last season.

NFL analyst Bucky Brooks and former NFL defensive back Ike Taylor were both partial to Bridgewater, while none of the panelists cited Bortles or Manziel.

–The return of San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, suspended until last week, might be a bad omen for the Raiders, who spent most the season letting players at that position run free to catch passes.

But the Raiders are now counting on Neiron Ball, who played 36 snaps while helping hand Denver Broncos tight end Owen Daniel his only shutout of the season. Ball could play even more, and possibly start, against the Chargers.

Before the Denver game, Ball’s speed was a factor on special teams. He had a sack in a game against Cleveland but played no more than five snaps from scrimmage. If he starts, it would be in place of Ray-Ray Armstrong.

Notes: Running backs Latavius Murray (shoulder) and Taiwan Jones took part fully in Wednesday’s practice. … Safety Charles Woodson (shoulder, knee) did not practice Wednesday but is expected to play. … Defensive tackle Justin Ellis (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but defensive end Denico Autry (concussion) participated fully. … Safety Taylor Mays was signed for the third time this season. … Defensive end and veteran team leader Justin Tuck (torn pectoral muscle) was placed on season-ending injured reserve.


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