For the first time since suffering a severely strained right pectoral muscle nearly seven weeks ago, Oakland Raiders quarterback Aaron Brooks returned to full-scale practices this week. The eight-year veteran will not, however, return to the starting lineup for Monday night's game at Seattle.
Coach Art Shell said that second-year veteran Andrew Walter, whose play has been inconsistent at times, will start his sixth straight contest.
Walter, 24, has compiled a 2-3 record as the starter, including victories in the past two outings. But the former Arizona State standout, a third-round choice in the 2005 draft, completed only five passes in last Sunday's 20-13 victory over Pittsburgh, and failed to get the offense into the end zone. The Raiders' two touchdowns both came on interception returns, as Walter compiled a 17.3 passer rating.
In his five starts, Walter has completed 58 of 116 passes for 735 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions, and a passer rating of 57.2. Walter has thrown for more than 200 yards in only one game.
But the Raiders seem to feel the strong-armed Walter might be the long-term answer at quarterback, and there is no rush to force Brooks back into the lineup. In fact, Shell insisted that Brooks will have to show the coaches that he is healthy again and ready to reclaim the starting job.
"It's not you come out, 'OK, I'm ready to go.' I have to see it," Shell said of Brooks.
Brooks suffered the pectoral injury in the first quarter of a Sept. 17 loss at Baltimore, as he attempted to recover a fumble. The original prognosis was that the former New Orleans starter would miss 2-4 weeks. But soreness and swelling near the right shoulder sidelined Brooks for longer than anticipated.
While he has been able to throw on the sideline for stretches, this week marked Brooks' first chance to get back into full-scale practices. How long it takes for Brooks to be able to compete with Walter for the top spot on the depth chart remains to be seen.
Shell noted that it was good to get Brooks "back into the swing of things," but seems committed to sticking with Walter for now.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.