Khalil Mack's three-word mantra during Raiders' limbo period in Oakland

Khalil Mack's three-word mantra during Raiders' limbo period in Oakland

The Raiders press corps has expanded. Several reporters from Las Vegas and a national media member joined the typical Bay Area crew on Monday, a sign that these Raiders will receive more attention this year.

That’s customary for a good team with engaging, marketable stars, but also a proof that these Raiders are serving two markets.

It’s a tightrope players have walked since NFL owners allowed the Raiders to move from Oakland to Las Vegas by a 31-1 vote. Before Monday, it was mostly with fans met out in public. Media access began Monday to kick off the offseason program, and marked the first time players were engaged in post-relocation talk with cameras rolling.

The Raiders plan to play three seasons in the Bay Area – they have lease options at Oakland Coliseum through 2018 – before a new, state-of-the-art Las Vegas stadium is ready in 2020. That’s a long limbo period, one where the Raiders hope to receive solid fan support from a market they are leaving while catering some to a market they’ll be joining soon.

Khalil Mack morphed Al Davis’ famous mantra into a way the Raiders can navigate often-choppy waters.

“It comes up all the time but it’s always the thing like, ‘just win now,’” Mack said Monday, answering the fourth relocation-related question of his press conference. “That’s what it comes down to for us. That’s all we want to do. You don’t know what’s going to happen down the line. You don’t know. This team that we have now, we want to focus on winning now.”

Center Rodney Hudson was asked about Las Vegas or relocation five times, and deflected each inquiry. Can’t blame him for that, When handed a hot potato, it’s best to pass it on.

Quarterback Derek Carr is the Raiders’ public face, and has consequently been the most vocal on the topic. That included an impassioned message released on Twitter the day the Raiders were approved to move. He talked about uniting Raider Nation, and thanking Oakland fans and saying how much the team loves the East Bay.

He echoed similar sentiments on Monday during seven Vegas-related questions, and understands there might be awkward moments ahead.

“I’m human, man. It’s like, that’s crazy. How do you keep playing somewhere you love and then you have to go and play somewhere else that you’re going to have to love and love the people there just like we will?” Carr said. “For me, I really had to concentrate on, in all honesty, it doesn’t matter yet.

“It’s like something that’s coming, it’s big news, it’s exciting for our organization and for fans that are Raider fans in Nevada and things like that, but at the same time we have our fans here that we need to take care of. That’s really important to me, to take care of our fans here, to make sure that enjoy our last times… What is it? Two years? Three years? Who knows? But, that’s my focus is to make sure I’m giving everything to this city that I can and not trying to do a little here and a little there.

“Obviously, there are going to be times where we’re in Vegas doing things because it’s a weird situation, but my focus is here and now, making sure that our fans feel appreciated knowing that they are going to get the very best version of me and my teammates every time we step out on the field.”

Despite repeated answers promoting unity, including one where Carr described positive interactions with Raiders fans in the Oakland area, he took some flak Tuesday for using the phrase “true Raider fans,” to describe those who remain loyal. His comment, presented in its entirety below, rubbed some fans the wrong way despite Carr’s great efforts to remain inclusive and express the difficulty inherent in serving two markets. He said fans have remained positive when engaging him.

“Honestly, it was surprising to me. I don’t know if it really should have surprised me because that’s just how Raider fans are,” he said. “It’s just, ‘Hey, we’re going with you. We’re Raiders.’ Like I said in the message, through the hard times and the good times, we’re still Raiders. There’s been a lot of hard times before. Now, we’re starting to have some good times. This is just another thing that we’re just going to deal with together. We’re not going to split up like you’ve seen other cities do. We’re not going to do things like that. For the ones that do, I don’t really believe that they’re true Raider fans. I feel their hurt. I’m with you. I hurt too. But at the same time, we’re all in this together and we’re just going to do it together.”

He reiterated his point on Twitter later Monday night, saying, “Just in case I was misunderstood…I love ALL Raiders fans, wherever they are from…We are in this together, always! #RaiderNation.”

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.”