ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch practiced Friday for the first time this week but remains questionable with a neck injury.
Branch was hurt during last Sunday's 55-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The injury worsened on the flight back to the West Coast and Branch was held out of all workouts before returning in a limited capacity.
While that's progress, Oakland coach Dennis Allen wouldn't classify it as significant and said he won't know Branch's status for certain until Sunday.
"It's a better step forward," Allen said.
Branch, who signed a four-year, $26.6 million deal in the offseason after being hit with the franchise tag, has started 57 consecutive games for Oakland. He hasn't missed a game since a shoulder injury sidelined him for the final eight games of his rookie season in 2008.
Without him, the Raiders would be minus their second-leading tackler and the leader of the secondary.
"You don't want to miss any games, you know?" Branch said. "This is what we love to do so I don't want to miss any games. It's not about the streak, it's about me missing a game."
The Raiders are already thin in the middle of their secondary.
Free safety Matt Giordano missed practice earlier this week after suffering a concussion against Baltimore. Michael Huff, the starting free safety at the beginning of the year, has been playing cornerback since Week 3.
Mike Mitchell will start at strong safety for Oakland if Branch is unable to play. Mitchell started four games in 2011 but has played sparingly as a backup this season.
A second-round pick in 2009, Mitchell welcomes the opportunity to start. He also feels it's long overdue and was very outspoken about the situation when approached by reporters.
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