HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Quarterback Jarrett Stidham called getting the opportunity to start his first NFL game “a dream come true” even if the circumstances weren’t ideal and the opponent Sunday owns the league’s top defense.

Stidham takes the place of Derek Carr, whose nine-year stint with the Raiders likely ended Wednesday when he was benched for the final two games by Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels. Carr left the Raiders’ facility and hasn’t returned.

“He’s getting the chance of a lifetime,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said of Stidham, “and I’m going to be his biggest fan.”

Like Carr, Stidham was informed Wednesday morning. He said he spoke with Carr, who told Stidham to maintain an even keel no matter what happens on the field.

“I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s helped me with personally and professionally,” Stidham said. “Him and his wife both have been very supportive and very welcoming to me and my wife here and our time together. He’s just a great human being and obviously a great football player, too. He’s obviously been here for a long time. I’m just going to try and go out there and play the best that I can and I know how.”

That won’t be easy against a San Francisco 49ers team that is first in total, scoring and rushing defense. Niners defensive end Nick Bosa comes to Las Vegas as the NFL leader with 17 1/2 sacks.

“You’re not going to get any better unless you do it against the best,” Stidham said. “So it’s going to be a great challenge for us as a team. They’re good in all three phases, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m super excited about it.”

Stidham, 26, was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft by the New England Patriots, where McDaniels was offensive coordinator.

He was a backup all three seasons, appearing in eight games. Stidham didn’t play in 2021 because of back surgery that July.

The Patriots traded him and a seventh-round pick to the Raiders in May for a sixth-round selection. That deal reunited him with McDaniels, so Stidham hasn’t had to learn a new offensive system.

“It’s been great,” Stidham said. “Coming in the offseason, obviously, that was good, having a good understanding of what was going on. But every week this year, just tried to prepare with whatever the game plan is and be as prepared as possible to go and play.”

Stidham — who has made three appearances this season — said he didn’t look at these final two weeks as an audition. The Raiders very well could look for their next quarterback in the draft or try to acquire a veteran.

The offense is Stidham’s for now, a dream that has become a reality, if only for a short time.

“I think he’s ready,” tight end Darren Waller said. “I think he’s going about it in a way that’s unique to him. Not trying to be anybody else, not trying to be too rah-rah or too loud. He speaks when he feels like he needs to speak and jokes with guys. He has the personality to go out there and do well.”


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