ALAMEDA — Running back C.J. Anderson has signed with the Oakland Raiders and could be in their backfield for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden said that the move is insurance in case Doug Martin isn’t available. The Raiders primary running back since Marshawn Lynch went on injured reserve with a groin injury in mid-October, Martin is nursing a sore knee and his status is uncertain.
“Although we think he’ll be ready to go we can’t take any precautions,” Gruden said Wednesday. “We have to be ready. We have four games left to play and the Steelers blitz almost every play, so we needed a back. Fortunately for us C.J. Anderson was available and we’re happy to have him.”
A Pro Bowl back with Denver in 2014 when he had nearly 1,200 all-purpose yards, Anderson was released by the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 12 and had tryouts with Kansas City and Detroit before signing a deal with the Raiders for the remainder of this season.
“Just getting acclimated with the playbook as much as I can,” Anderson said. “The good thing is there’s a lot of crossover from what I’m used to doing, what I did with (Peyton Manning), what I’ve done with (Gary Kubiak) and just a little bit with Norv (Turner). The good thing is I know it’s a West Coast system. The terminology is different, so just heavily diving in the playbook.”
Anderson’s signing came amid a flurry of moves made by the Raiders this week.
Safety Reggie Nelson (shoulder), wide receiver Martavis Bryant (knee) and defensive end Shilique Calhoun (neck) were placed on injured reserve while defensive end Fadol Brown and offensive lineman Ian Silberman were released.
Oakland signed cornerback Bene Benwikere, defensive end Kony Ealy, defensive end Damontre Moore and offensive lineman Denzelle Good.
Additionally, the Raiders designated right tackle Donald Penn to return from injured reserve.
“We had a busy couple days here,” Gruden said.
Anderson’s signing was the most significant of Oakland’s transactions.
The 27-year-old grew up in Vallejo, about 35 miles north of the Coliseum, and played in college at California in nearby Berkeley.
Although he went undrafted, Anderson spent five seasons with the Broncos and rushed for a career-best 1,007 yards in 2017 before signing with the Panthers in the offseason. Anderson expected to split time with Christian McCaffrey, but had only 24 carries for 104 yards when Carolina let him go on Nov. 12.
The situation might not be much different in Oakland, although Martin’s health will be a big factor.
The Raiders could also be looking at Anderson as a potential fit in 2019. Martin and Lynch are both scheduled to be free agents next season and there is no guarantee that either will be back in Oakland.
“My resume speaks for myself,” Anderson said. “If I would have sat out for the rest of this season, with other people setting the market as well, I would have found a job. It’s all about timing.”
Anderson has had several big moments in his career.
During his Pro Bowl season in 2014, Anderson had a pair of big games against the Raiders. He ran for 90 yards and had another 73 yards in receptions on Nov. 9, then rushed for 87 yards and three touchdowns two months later.
Anderson helped Denver to a 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 when he rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Gruden said there are similarities between Anderson and Martin.
“They’re both hard between-the-tackles runners, they can pick up blitzes, they’re versatile and they’re experienced,” Gruden said. “We felt with Martin’s situation, already missing Marshawn Lynch, we couldn’t take any precautions.”
NOTES: Penn’s designation to return likely means the end of Lynch’s season, and possibly his NFL career since teams can only bring back two players off injured reserve. The Raiders already brought back defensive tackle Justin Ellis last week. If Penn isn’t added to the 53-man roster, Lynch could still be brought back, but it’s unlikely. ... Benwikere is on his fourth team in five years.