OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Jake Grove was picked to start at center for the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, seven months after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee.
Grove, who started all 16 games for the Raiders in 2006 before spending most of last year on injured reserve, beat out veteran John Wade and took all of the reps in practice with Oakland's starting offense, much like he did throughout training camp and most of the preseason.
``He came out and took the job,'' Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. ``He earned it, he didn't get it by default. I love the way that it went down as opposed to him just being out here and not having competition.''
The announcement capped a long offseason for Grove that began after he underwent microfracture surgery in early January, a procedure the 2004 second-round draft pick says has him playing pain-free for the first time in three years.
``It has made a big difference for me,'' Grove said. ``I couldn't move right to left. I couldn't go to my left. You can't tell the coach, 'Nah, let's just run right.' It doesn't work too good.''
``I knew after getting hurt I couldn't come in and mess around. This was kind of make-or-break. That probably added a little extra motivation for me. Getting that thing fixed has been the biggest thing.''
Grove initially injured his knee during the second game of the '05 season and underwent surgery two weeks later to repair the damage. He returned and continued to play the same year then started the entire 2006 season when the Raiders went 2-14.
Oakland brought in Jeremy Newberry in 2007 to push Grove, but Newberry won the starting job outright as Grove spent most of the season on the sidelines. His knee, still bothering him more than two years after the first surgery, eventually landed him on injured reserve and led to the second procedure.
``Before Jake got hurt he was playing well, but he wasn't the same Jake that we see right now,'' Kiffin said. ``He's much stronger and quicker.''
Wade started every game over the past three seasons for Tampa Bay but signed a $2.8 million, two-year contract with the Raiders in the offseason.
Kiffin said the plan now is for Wade to start taking reps at guard in practice in addition to working as Grove's backup.
The Raiders released two players, kicker Aaron Helling and wide receiver Drisan James, to get down to the 75-player limit.
Helling had been kicking while Sebastian Janikowski recovered from a hamstring injury, but Janikowski returned to practice Tuesday and is expecting to play against Seattle on Friday.

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