Raiders release fullback Lorenzo Neal

Aug 20, 2009 - 2:04 AM NAPA, Calif.(AP) -- The Oakland Raiders released veteran fullback Lorenzo Neal on Wednesday, ending his brief stay with the team.

Neal, who signed with the Raiders in May, was expected to push Oren O'Neal and Luke Lawton for the starting fullback job but became expendable when O'Neal impressed Oakland's coaching staff with his recovery from major knee surgery.

"Im just preparing for where we need to be as a football team, really, and what we thought we have, and whether that was enough and all that," coach Tom Cable said. "So it was time to go in a different direction there."

Neal, 38, was trying to latch on with his eighth NFL team and seemed to be doing well. But Cable said the Raiders felt O'Neal's recovery from surgery was going better than expected, which made Neal expendable.

O'Neal tore both the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee last year on the opening kickoff during an Aug. 23 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. One of the hamstring muscles attached to O'Neal's knee also tore away and had to be surgically reattached.

Then-Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin called the injury possibly career-threatening, casting a serious shadow over O'Neal's budding NFL career. But after undergoing surgery, the third-year fullback made remarkable progress during his rehab.

O'Neal was walking slowly off the practice field Wednesday, but Cable sounded optimistic he could be ready to play by the season-opener.

"I think he's really got back out here, got back into it," Cable said. "He gets better and better with each day. In fact, today was probably his best day of catching and blocking and protecting, and just the whole thing. He feels great. Everything's stable."

The Raiders also announced the signing of safety Rashard Baker, who was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. Baker had three interceptions for Oakland in 2008, tying for the team lead.

NOTES: Cable said WR Chaz Schilens underwent surgery on his left foot and will be out 4-to-6 weeks.

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