Ausberry making up for lost time

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There were high hopes for David Ausberry last preseason as he elevated himself into position to claim the starting tight end position for the Oakland Raiders.

Then came the exhibition game at New Orleans, and the play in which he landed awkwardly on his left shoulder on the unforgiving Superdome artificial turf.

“A chipped bone,” Ausberry said this week, “torn ligaments. It was pretty nasty.”

Surgery followed and Ausberry’s season came to an end before it began as he was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 23, 2013.

“I didn’t get to do anything but watch film, so that’s kind of how I gained experience a little bit,” he said. “I was a little rusty; I can admit that. It was good to get back in there and in with the guys. That was probably the most fun thing.”

So far, Ausberry has not been limited in OTA practices.

“It’s been good to have David back out here,” coach Dennis Allen said as OTAs got underway last week.

“He was a guy that we had high hopes for last year and unfortunately got hurt in that first preseason game. He’s a guy that, again, he’s got talent, he’s got ability, especially as a receiving threat so he’s a nice piece to the puzzle and hopefully he’ll continue to develop and hopefully he’ll stay healthy and we’ll be able to use him this year.”

Ausberry was originally a seventh-round draft pick in 2011 out of USC, where he was a wide receiver. The transformation to tight end ensued and Ausberry, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, said he is now “258, 260 pounds” and it shows.

He already has a pass-catcher’s soft hands -- he has nine career catches for 106 yards -- and the added bulk should help him with his blocking as he battles a pair of second-year players in Mychal Rivera, who caught 38 passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns last season, and Nick Kasa, who is 3 inches taller than both Ausberry and Rivera and caught one pass, a 9-yard TD.

The tight end position seems up for grabs and Ausberry’s skill set would seem to put him in the lead. Not that he is keeping score. At least, not publicly.

“I try not to worry about things like that too much,” he said. “I just try to be confident, do my job, do what I’m asked to do and do it effectively.”

But with a new quarterback with a penchant for throwing the ball to his tight end in Matt Schaub, Ausberry has taken notice of that development.

“He is tight end friendly,” Ausberry said with a smile, “so that’s pretty good for us. We like Matt. He’s a good leader, great football player and is good for this team.

“He likes the tight ends. He likes to use the middle of the field, so we’ll be there for him.”

The Raiders are hoping so, especially, as Allen said, for Ausberry to stay healthy.