Raiders

Future in question, Raiders need hyphy Marshawn in final home game of 2017

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AP

Future in question, Raiders need hyphy Marshawn in final home game of 2017

OAKLAND – Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington were headed for the field when Marshawn Lynch held them back. The young Raiders running backs weren’t sure why their position group’s elder statesman would do so, especially before starters were announced to the Oakland Coliseum crowd.

Lynch wanted Richard and Washington to run out with him. Questions ran rapid fire through Richard’s mind: Are you sure you want company? This was, after all, the proud Oakland native’s homecoming game. Won’t that mess up your big moment in the sun? Is this even allowed?

Lynch wasn’t worried about any of that. Lynch rolled three deep into the Week 2 home opener against the New York Jets, flanked by young protégés he has advised all year. His big moment was theirs, too.

”That was my first time going through the tunnel,” Richard said. “The first time, I didn’t think they were going to let us do that. But Marshawn said it was fine, and brought us with him. It’s a different feeling running out the tunnel all three of us, through the smoke and onto the field. It lets you know you’re in the league.”

That was a true Marshawn moment. So was a tackle-breaking touchdown run during the game, and when the scoreboard broadcast him getting hyphy on the sideline. The entire stadium partied with him that day, his first regular-season game as a Raider at Oakland Coliseum.

Lynch has brought Washington and Richard with him each time he comes out of the tunnel, a moment when the hometown crowd praises their favorite son.

“You definitely feel the energy,” Washington said. “He’s a hometown guy. Marshawn wears this city on his back. There’s a roar when they announce his name. It’s been a fun experience throughout the year.”

Sunday night's clash with the Dallas Cowboys is the final home game this season, unless, of course, the AFC West completely and shockingly turns on its ear and the Raiders host a playoff game.

That fact begs this question: Will Sunday be the last time Marshawn plays in Oakland?

The answer remains uncertain, with several factors at play.

Lynch remains under contract next season, with a $4 million base salary and incentives and bonuses that could pay an additional $2 million. None of that money is guaranteed, so the Raiders could cut him without dead money attached.

Lynch could also retire like he did right after Super Bowl 50. He didn’t miss the game in a year away from it, and the enigmatic personality may decide one season in Oakland was enough. He came back to show kids in the community he champions firsthand that someone from their neighborhood could bring attention to Oakland before the Raiders leave. Will an encore season further that goal?

The Raiders signed Lynch for two reasons: to boost their backfield and offer an olive branch to Oakland after being approved to relocate to Las Vegas. The Raiders won’t move until 2020, and having Oakland’s most popular person in Silver and Black helps keep butts in the seats.

He has practiced all year save a few rest days and has been a quality locker room presence, though he rubbed some the wrong way getting ejected and then suspended for defending good friend and rival Kansas City Chief Marcus Peters in an on-field scuffle. Coach Jack Del Rio said he practiced and played with extra zest after serving a one-game suspension. Stats bear that out.

His production lulled before midseason – he struggled to meld with the Raiders scheme and offensive line – but has picked up that pace significantly in the second half.

Lynch had 100-plus yards from scrimmage in two home games preceding last week’s loss in Kansas City, where he had 64 yards on eight touches.

He has averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and his 2.68 yards per carry after contact ranks sixth in the league. Lynch still has it at age 31, and might hit the ground running next season behind a familiar line.

That’s then. The Raiders still need him now, against a No. 11-ranked Cowboys run defense. Local fans would love to see him succeed in person one more time this year, which might mark the end or the halfway point of his tenure playing for the Raiders in Oakland Coliseum.

Carr admits back injury had an impact: 'I had to deal with it'

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USATSI

Carr admits back injury had an impact: 'I had to deal with it'

Derek Carr was asked several times during the 2017 season whether a Week 4 back injury impacted his throwing motion, his play, his ability to produce. The Raiders quarterback dismissed the inquiries each time, proclaiming full health.

That wasn’t the whole truth. Three transverse process fractures in his back did affect him. Carr didn’t admit that. He didn’t want to use injury as an excuse. His play, Carr figured, should stand on its own.

Now, with the 2017 season in the rearview, Carr was a bit more candid about his physical state.

“When you break three bones in your back, it doesn’t feel good,” Carr said in this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast (Subscribe right here). “I’m thankful God healed me to the point I could walk around and be able to practice. Injuries will never be something I talk about, especially during the season, but since it’s after the season, the (back issue) was one of those things that was there.”

Denver’s Adam Gotsis kneed Carr in the back during a third-quarter sack. The fractures occurred there, and removed Carr from that 16-10 loss. The original prognosis had Carr out 2-4 weeks. He missed but one game and never stopped to rest. He missed a Wedneday practice, was limited the rest of the week and was questionable for a game backup EJ Manuel ultimately played.

Carr pushed to get back in the lineup. He didn’t miss another game, but that doesn’t mean the back injury was behind him.

“I had to deal with it,” Carr said. “I had to do certain things to manage it, but I just didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want it to be an excuse. It was a want more than anything else. I didn’t want it to be a reason. I couldn’t let that be a reason why I couldn’t do A, B or C.”

Carr’s back wasn’t the sole reason for lackluster offensive output, but it played a part. The Raiders dealt with flux in play calling and scheme preference, especially in the run game. On-field struggles splintered the locker room some, and an ironclad confidence began to soften.

Carr stands three-plus weeks from last season’s end. Distance provides perspective, and Carr wishes he could’ve done something to pull his Raiders out of a tailspin.

“I’ve looked back at the season over the past couple weeks and wondered if I could have done something or said something or acted upon something at a certain time,” Carr said. “You’re always looking to get better. …

“I’ve looked back (at) the way things were handled, things that went down and said, ‘Man. I wish I could’ve had the knowledge I have now. I would go back and fix that.’ That’s how things work. You gain experience from every situation you go through and try to be better the next time.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

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AP

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”