Crabtree 'a game-changer,' comes through in clutch again


Crabtree 'a game-changer,' comes through in clutch again

BALTIMORE – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree doesn’t ask for the football. He doesn’t go into the huddle and tell Derek Carr he’s open or beating his man regularly.

He doesn’t need to ask. Carr finds Crabtree a ton.

The 29-year old has been targeted 36 times in the first four games and has 26 receptions. He catches virtually everything, and has become Carr’s go-to guy in the clutch.

On Sunday, he showed why. Crabtree had seven receptions for 88 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-27 victory over the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, including the game winner with roughly two minutes remaining.

“They had the corners shading me outside all day,” Crabtree said. “DC coached me up on that last play, and told me, ‘don’t stop running.’ We executed the play, and the result was a touchdown.”

Only because he dragged his foot in a full spring just inches from the baseline. He got both feet down and the Raiders completed their second fourth-quarter comeback in the first four games.

Crabtree has been clutch all season. He has a crucial touchdown against Atlanta, was a third-down ball magnet against Tennessee and, of course, caught that game-winning 2-point conversion in New Orleans.

Head coach Jack Del Rio compared Crabtree’s sure hands to Hall of Famer Cris Carter, and that he has gotten even more than expected from him.

“He has been a great leader for us,” Del Rio said. “There were questions brought up (about that).That hasn’t been part of what we’re getting. We’re getting a guy who is a great teammate, who works hard every day and is very friendly for our quarterback.

He’s going through a career renaissance in Oakland after struggling to fit in at the end of his 49ers tenure. This was a guy left on the 2015 free agent market for a full month. Now he’ll be a Raider through 2019 after he signed a $34 million extension late last year.

Quarterback Derek Carr knew Crabtree was a sleeping giant and wanted him to stay in Oakland.

“When he became a free agent after my rookie year, and he came to visit us, I tried everything I could to make sure he left our building a Raider,” Carr said. “I know the kind of talent he is. I’m so thankful that he chose to stay in the Bay Area. The guy is a game-changer, and one of the best receivers in this league.”

“…I didn’t promise him catches or touchdowns, but I said that, if we worked hard and grew together, we could do something special.”

That has happened several times this season. Carr to Crabtree has become a productive pairing, which Crabtree believes in the best of his career.

“It’s no secret,” Crabtree said. “I’ll say I’m grateful to be in this situation and thankful. I’m going to keep working. The sky’s the limit for this team.”

Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order


Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith surrendered to police Friday on charges he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

San Francisco police said the 28-year-old Smith turned himself and was booked on three misdemeanor charges of violating a court order to stay away from a domestic violence victim.

Earlier this month, Smith pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and other charges and a judge issued a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the victim.

Police said Smith violated the restraining order earlier this week.

Smith’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not return a voicemail message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Raiders released the linebacker days after his arrest on the domestic violence charges.

He had been on the suspended list since late 2015 for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”