When Marques Tuiasosopo was drafted by the Oakland Raiders, he joked about needing to buy a spiked collar to fit the team's nasty image.
Come Sunday, the seldom-used backup quarterback could do a lot to polish that very image -- and bolster Oakland's fading playoff chances, too.
Tuiasosopo will make his first career start today in Detroit in place of the injured Rich Gannon.
He has been patiently waiting for this opportunity, training as Gannon's understudy.
"You just never know when you're going to get your shot," Tuiasosopo said. "Mine happened to be a couple years after I got in the league. Each week I just try to prepare myself. I've gone through a lot of preparation with Rich the last couple years and I'm not going to deviate too much from we've done in the past."
Gannon, the reigning NFL MVP, was listed as doubtful Wednesday with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Such an injury could sideline him for several weeks.
"How long it's going to be, I don't know," coach Bill Callahan said. "I'm confident he can get back sooner than later. He's always been a quick healer. ... Rich is a fierce competitor. Nobody, I believe, in football wants to get back to the playing field worse than Rich Gannon."
The 37-year-old Gannon was injured in the Raiders' 17-10 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 20 and hasn't thrown since. He was knocked out of the game in the first half following two sacks by linebacker Shawn Barber and several other hits.
"Marques is a guy who's been with us three years," Callahan said. "He has excellent management of the offense. He knows how to compete, but starting is a different thing. We feel confident in his ability to step in."
Tuiasosopo nearly rallied the Raiders (2-5) to a comeback win against the Chiefs, but fell just short when Tim Brown was tackled on the 1 as time expired. Tuiasosopo was 16-of-28 for 224 yards after replacing Gannon.
Oakland is desperate for a win. The Raiders are reeling in a poor start following their loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl last season.
"I'm just going out there to try to have some fun and try to win. It's been a while," Tuiasosopo said. "We need to get back on a win streak."
The 24-year-old Tuiasosopo, in his third pro season after a stellar college career at Washington, has had extra time taking snaps with the first-team offense because the Raiders were off last week.
Before his Monday night appearance, Tuiasosopo had thrown just six passes all season for the Raiders and 10 in his NFL career. He has been getting advice from Gannon, who refused to talk to reporters again Wednesday.
"It was nice to get some game action so I wouldn't be totally getting all the rust off," Tuiasosopo said. "It'd be nice to get an extra yard so you can give yourselves the chance to win. That was the one bummer about last week. I'm excited to get on the field."
His teammates have confidence in Tuiasosopo.
"I think he's ready," said offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, also a former standout for Washington who watched Tuiasosopo on TV at times. "He's been around here a few years and he's ready for his opportunity. He's been around the system long enough to have confidence in what he can do."