Las Vegas Raiders' Jon Gruden 'optimistic' Derek Carr will be active, but won't 'let the cat out of the bag' on starter vs. Miami Dolphins

HENDERSON, Nev. -- While Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is "optimistic" quarterback Derek Carr will be active Saturday against the Miami Dolphins, nine days after he suffered a strained groin, Gruden would not announce who would start at quarterback -- Carr or Marcus Mariota.

"That's my plan, right now, as I sit here," Gruden said Thursday, when asked specifically if Carr, the franchise's all-time leading passer, would be in uniform.

"But, again, these groins are funny. You saw what happened last Thursday night. I mean, he's running to his right and I didn't see him the rest of the game. So, I'm not going to say anything other than I'm optimistic. But I'm not a mind-reader. I just know that he had an injury that caused him to miss the game last week and I'm respectful of that. He's a tough guy, man. But I'm optimistic he'll be ready to go, yes."

In terms of a timeline, Gruden said, "We'll see what happens here [Friday] in terms of which way we go, but we'll have two quarterbacks prepared to play."

After being "limited" in practice Tuesday, Carr was a "full" participant on Wednesday and Thursday and split reps with Mariota, who replaced Carr after he went down late in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Mariota surprised the Chargers with his ability and willingness to run the ball -- he rushed for a game-high 88 yards with a 2-yard touchdown and passed for 226 yards and a TD -- in the 30-27 overtime loss.

On Tuesday, Carr said he was "going to do everything I can to be on that field" against the Dolphins (9-5).

"Again, I think the best part of my game is my mind and that's still working," he said.

"I've done everything in my power to make myself available this week and I'm going to continue to try my best to do that because I promised [Gruden] I'd do that. That's just who I am. It may not always be perfect, but they're going to know when I've left, I gave everything I had, that's for sure."

Gruden said Carr has "shown a lot of good things" in practice this week.

"You know, I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag here," Gruden said. "I'm going to make sure [Carr] is OK. I'm going to make sure that, physically, he has to wake up in the morning and go through his rehab one more day, do all the things he needs to do against one of the top defenses, that blitzes almost every play. So, we've got to do what's right.

"Mariota has also performed well so, like I said, we'll have a quarterback under the center and we're excited to play a really good football team."

The Raiders (7-7), though, will be without three starters on defense in defensive end Clelin Ferrell (shoulder) and linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Nicholas Morrow, both of whom went on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, joining defensive back Daryl Worley and safety Erik Harris on the list. Defensive backs coach Jim O'Neil will be unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns.

Rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III came off the COVID-19 list, though, as did cornerback Isaiah Johnson. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson is also expected back after being out last week due to virus concerns. Plus, the Raiders defense is expected to regain the services of safety Johnathan Abram (concussion), cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who just came back from injured reserve.

"We're going to have to play our best game of the year to win it," Gruden said.