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Wheatley To Stay A Raider!

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  • r8er_4life
    Raiders keep tailback Wheatley ... By Len Pasquarelli ESPN.com Despite a diminished role in the Oakland offense over the past two seasons, Raiders coaches and
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 26, 2003
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      Raiders keep tailback Wheatley

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      By Len Pasquarelli
      ESPN.com


      Despite a diminished role in the Oakland offense over the past two
      seasons, Raiders coaches and team officials still consider Tyrone
      Wheatley essential to their success.

      ESPN.com learned Sunday the two sides have reached an agreement in
      principle on a new contract.

      Terms of the agreement, which end the veteran tailback's three-week
      tenure as an unrestricted free agent, were not immediately available.
      The contract will be signed later in the week.

      Wheatley, 31, attracted interest from other teams at the outset of
      the signing period, but Oakland officials pursued him from the first
      day of free agency. With the market slowed to a near-halt, and the
      Raiders the team for which he wanted to play anyway, Wheatley decided
      to act now on the Oakland offer.

      The eight-year veteran played in 14 games in 2002 and rushed for 419
      yards and two touchdowns on 108 carries. He also had 12 receptions
      for 71 yards.

      Over the past two seasons, as Charlie Garner has emerged as the
      Raiders' No. 1 tailback, the time-sharing plan under which the two
      veterans played has been reduced. Yet the Raiders hierarchy,
      including owner Al Davis, sees Wheatley as an excellent complement to
      Garner and the franchise's toughest inside runner.

      Indeed, the former University of Michigan star remains a physical
      presence between the tackles and has continued to pay dividends to an
      Oakland team that plucked him off the waiver wire just before the
      start of the '99 season. In his first two years with the Raiders, he
      rushed for 1,982 yards, including a 1,046-yard performance in 2000.

      The first-round draft choice of the New York Giants in 1995, Wheatley
      was often termed a bust during his four years with the team, and he
      was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1999. Wheatley was released by
      the Dolphins before the start of the season and signed by the Raiders.

      Former coach Jon Gruden in particular used Wheatley as a human
      wrecking ball against the interior of opposition defenses.

      In 102 games, Wheatley has 32 starts, and has rushed for 3,957 yards
      and 32 touchdowns on 1,026 career attempts. He has 98 receptions for
      702 yards in eight seasons, with seven touchdown catches. The
      retention of Wheatley continues a Raiders emphasis on bolstering
      their backfield. The team last week signed a pair of fullbacks, Cecil
      Martin and Chris Hetherington, to replace former starter Jon Ritchie,
      who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month as an
      unrestricted free agent.


      Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.




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