Sims, Raiders' Ironman...

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Sims is Raiders' ironman

By PHIL BARBER

NAPA - Barry Sims banged his right elbow in practice Thursday morning, gave way to Corey Hulsey at left guard for the rest of the a.m. drills, then sat out the afternoon session.

The injury is not considered serious, and Sims is expected to return to action any day. Still, this was news.

Teammates simply aren't used to seeing Sims on the sidelines.

Over the past three seasons, the Raiders have started six different players at left guard, four at center, four at right guard and three at right tackle.

They had only one left tackle during that span - Sims, who now has shifted over to guard. He has missed only two games in seven NFL seasons, and holds a current streak of 61 consecutive starts (including postseason, which tells you how far back this thing stretches), longest on the team.

"Don't jinx him," said backup Brad Badger.

That's the mentality along the offensive line, where players are constantly at risk for both serious injury (like Langston Walker's abdominal hemorrhage last season) and grinding wear and tear (like the knee-cartilage issues that eventually ended the career of center Barret Robbins).

Here's another gauge of Sims' impressive run: His name didn't appear once on the Raiders' injury report last year, which ostensibly means he never received extensive treatment from team trainers. Sims began his career as an undrafted free agent from Utah, but fortune has clearly been shining on him since.

"Staying in the weight room and getting yourself in shape, that'll put luck on your side," center Jake Grove said. "But a lot of it is just luck. You know, someone falls on your leg, there's not a lot you can do about it."

"I think you've got to be lucky," said coach Art Shell, who stayed remarkably injury-free during his 15 seasons as an offensive tackle. "I don't care what anybody says."

But Sims doesn't agree that staying on the field is a game of chance. For one thing, he has worked through his share of injuries. He played 14 games with a broken foot in 2001, and he played most of the 2002 season with a turf toe condition.

Sims also has learned how to maximize his chances, largely from former Raiders and famed workout fanatics Bill Romanowski and Trace Armstrong.

"Those guys really kind of opened my eyes to how you have to take care of your body and treat it like an investment and basically not ignore things, just get the proper treatment if you need it," Sims said. "And that's really paid off."

Besides the usual weightlifting, running and stretching, Sims gets regular chiropractic adjustments, and this year he spent a lot of time with a physical therapist. He brings a personal massage therapist to camp and gets kneaded every day.

"That helps keep my legs fresh," Sims said. "Once you start getting tight and you start compensating a little bit, then injuries start popping up. ... If you're flexible, you can take weird-angled shots, people falling into your legs a little bit more. Because when you're tight, that's when stuff reaches a point and pops."

Even the guys who chalk up health to luck admit there are things an athlete can do to help his cause. Badger said players who bend their legs properly suffer fewer injuries. Long snapper Adam Treu advised against standing next to piles or stopping your leg movement too soon on blocks. Shell said the key is going full speed, never playing it safe.

Whatever the precise calculus, there's no question the Raiders are looking forward to getting Sims back at right guard - and probably expecting him to continue his streak of games started.

"It's pretty impressive," Badger said. "It takes a lot of good luck and a lot of good health."

EXTRA POINTS

Three foreign coaches are currently observing the Raiders' training camp. Patrick Esume of Germany, Radames Carrillo of Mexico and Tang Hai-yan of China will attend meetings and practices.

LB Robert Thomas took part in the afternoon practice. A calf injury had kept him out of action since Aug. 2.

Missing practice were RB Rod Smart (knee), WR Carlos Francis (hamstring), TE James Adkisson (knee), LB Timi Wusu (groin), T Jabari Levey (hamstring) and T William Obeng (foot). WR Ronald Curry (Achilles') remains on the physically unable to perform list.
 
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