ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Ron Stone spent much of last season on the sidelines nursing an injured left knee, largely considered a free-agent bust in his first year with the Oakland Raiders.
He's finally healthy, and eager to be part of an Oakland offense expected to be high-powered and exciting with Randy Moss and Jerry Porter as the top two targets for Kerry Collins.
But, for now, Stone won't be a starter.
Stone, a three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman beginning his 13th NFL season, has been rotating in at right guard behind Brad Badger. With Langston Walker playing a new position at left guard, Stone could potentially slide in at right guard and Badger could move to the left side if Walker struggles.
Stone started only five games for the Raiders last season while being slowed by his troublesome knee.
"Injuries happen," Stone said. "It's not anybody's fault they happen. It was difficult because it was my first time being hurt in a long time. Hopefully I'll stay injury-free this year. You've just got to deal with it and try to get better."
Stone had a difficult time watching as his teammates went 5-11 in coach Norv Turner's first season, getting only one more win than Bill Callahan had in 2003 before being fired only a year after leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl.
The team is 9-23 over the past two seasons for the worst two-year record since Al Davis arrived in 1963 to coach and eventually own the Raiders.
"It's hard because you want to be back out there and you can't," Stone said. "You're still hurt and you don't want to re-injure yourself. It's hard being out there and watching the guys go out and fight and you can't do anything about it. The injury bug caught up to me."
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Stone used the offseason to get healthy again, then work himself back into football shape. The Raiders re-signed him in March just a week after waiving him in a salary cap move.
"Ron's been playing great," center Jake Grove said. "He was playing well last year until he got hurt. I think he's ready to have a great year. He's playing a lot faster than he did last year. He looks good out there right now."
Stone originally signed as a free agent in March 2004, receiving an $8.35 million, three-year contract.
He has played in 157 games for Oakland, San Francisco, the New York Giants and Dallas, playing every position on the offensive line. He made the Pro Bowl from 2000-02. He also played in two Super Bowls, winning it in 1996 with Dallas and losing in 2001 with the Giants.
He hopes to experience that winning feeling again -- and knows the raucous Raiders fans have high expectations.
"It's on all of us," he said. "This is the whole unit put together, an offense I hope the Raiders fans will be excited to see. I can't wait to see. We'll see what happens. It's very nice because we've got a lot of weapons."
The Raiders placed WR John Stone on injured reserve Tuesday because of a shoulder injury. The team also cut P Gary Cook, S Kevin Curtis and LB Maurice Washington. ... WR Carlos Francis will play in Thursday's exhibition finale against New Orleans, his first game back since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last Oct. 24 against the Saints. ... Porter said he won't play Thursday as he continues to heal his pulled hamstring with the plan of playing in the season-opener next Thursday at New England.