Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

LANDOVER, Md. – The Raiders planned to skip Sunday night’s national anthem all together. They were going to remain in the locker room until kickoff, as several teams across the league did in response to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about NFL players.

The schedule didn’t permit that. Kickoff and the national anthem was too close together. So the Raiders were on the sideline, and what they did was far more powerful.

Most of the team sat during the anthem, arm and arm together. Raiders coaches and several players stood with arms linked. Others took a knee. A few guys stood alone.

No Raider had a smile. The image was broadcast to a national television audience. A movement popularized by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to shed light on racial injustice and police brutality against minorities took another turn this weekend, after Trump said Friday night that any NFL player not standing during the national anthem should be fired. He called them sons of bitches.

Players heard what was said. They took it to heart.

The Raiders had a grand platform on Sunday Night Football. They took advantage of it.

“It hit a lot of guys. A lot of guys felt it on a personal level,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “They felt that, as role models, they needed to do something to show a sign of unity. Our country was built on equality and freedom and us having rights as human beings. We’re athletes, but we’re humans first. There were some disrespectful comments, and the guys felt like they had a duty to do something, given the stage we have as athletes. You have to do something. We talked about it, and we wanted to be together and show that freedom of speech still matters.”

Owner Mark Davis approved of his team’s reaction. He prefers players don’t protest in a Raiders uniform, but his stance changed this weekend.

“I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform,” Davis said in an interview with ESPN. “The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”

Every Raider interviewed about this topic emphasized that their decision to sit or kneel wasn’t meant to disrespect the military, police or the American flag. It was a direct response to Trump’s comments. The Raiders felt they had to respond. Outside of Marshawn Lynch, who always sits for the anthem, this won’t be a weekly thing.

The Raiders made their point and want to move on.

“Stuff is getting out of hand,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I don’t really want to talk about it or give him more of my time. We have disasters going on in Florida and Puerto Rico, and he’s worried about us doing a silent, peaceful protest? When the people of Charlottesville did their thing, he didn’t call them sons of bitches or assholes.

“We were all on the same page. I wish I didn’t have to do anything like that. I’ve been standing for the anthem all the time, but when you get called out, you take it personally. You have to do something.”

Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black


Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black

Ndamukong Suh’s coming to Alameda. Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther and Reggie McKenzie will have a chance to make a pitch, explaining exactly why the superstar defensive tackle belongs in silver and black.

McKenzie (and owner Mark Davis) would’ve relished this opportunity last time Suh was a free agent. The Raiders had plenty of cap space in 2015 but oh, so many needs coming off a 3-13 campaign, and weren’t prepared for his market value to go nuclear. McKenzie steered clear of the mushroom cloud, and Suh’s deal set a new market for defensive players.

He made $60 million over three years in Miami, but didn’t see his contract’s second half after lackluster team results and hints of inconsistent effort. The Dolphins are reportedly angling for a culture change, and didn’t think Suh would help the transition.

That put him back on the open market, with more guaranteed dollars dancing in his head. Suh’s on a free-agent tour rare in the modern NFL, where dollars are committed quick once free agency opens. Suh’s slow playing this one, thus far hopping from New Orleans to Tennessee to L.A. to see the Rams on a private jet. His charter will land in Oakland Wednesday to see what the Raiders have to offer.

There’s little doubt what Suh can bring. He’s the best interior defensive lineman east of L.A.’s Aaron Donald and would be a perfect fit for Guenther’s scheme. That system needs a Geno Atkins type. He made the Guenther’s Bengals go in recent seasons, and Suh’s certainly better when going strong.

The real question’s what the Raiders can offer that others can’t. The Titans and Rams have more salary-cap space, as it stands right now. The Raiders are the only non-playoff team in his bunch, with the other three seemingly on the rise.

The Raiders could champion playing with Khalil Mack. The Rams have Donald, the Titans have Jurell Casey and the Saints have Cam Jordan. Suh has made reference to the final three in interviews with Yahoo! Sports.

Gruden, however, is certainly a selling point. Several signed free agents cited the A-list head coach as an attraction to joining the Raiders. A healthy, impactful Derek Carr and Suh’s addition to the defensive could make the Raiders a real contender right away, something that will obviously get brought up in Wednesday’s visit.

Suh’s an Oregon kid, and the Raiders are the closest team to home. That might help.

He could make a pros and cons list about market, state tax issues, chances of winning, coach and locker room culture, but the almighty dollar can’t be ignored.

Can the Raiders put together an attractive financial package, one that would make them truly appealing? That’s the (multi-)million dollar question.

The Raiders don’t have tons of salary-cap space. The $20 million figure on the NFLPA site Monday doesn’t include several recently signed free-agent contracts. It’s far lower, though cutting veterans without guaranteed money easily creates space. The Raiders could keep Suh’s 2018 cap number lower through a signing bonus and fat roster bonuses in future years.

Make no mistake: the cap is not an impenetrable road block. The Raiders might have to get away from contract structuring practices that McKenzie’s people used to reach excellent salary-cap standing. That’s especially true considering the monster deal given to Carr last year and the mega-extension Mack will get soon.

We say all that with one caveat. Suh’s exact team-selection criteria aren’t clear. There’s no telling if this Alameda trip could help create a robust market, or if he’s taking the Raiders seriously. Making the trip means something, however, and will at least give Gruden and Co. a chance to woo Suh, lock him down and radically chance expectations for the 2018 season.

Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere


Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere

The Raiders missed out on signing Ryan Grant. The former Washington receiver visited the team’s Alameda training complex, but left without a contract and ultimately chose to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis.

They lost that one, but are undeterred in their quest to upgrade the receiver corps.

They already signed Jordy Nelson and let Michael Crabtree walk, hoping for steady production and quality locker room leadership in the exchange.

Cordarrelle Patterson was traded to New England on Sunday, creating a spot in the position group.

The Raiders tried to fill it with Grant. No go, no matter.

They hosted veteran Eric Decker on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. They also declared interest in Allen Hurns, a player the Jaguars released Tuesday morning.

Hurns listed the Raiders among interested teams – he said there were 10 in total – in an interview with KFNZ radio in Charlotte, N.C.

Hurns has a 1,000-yard season to his credit – his biggest year came with now-Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson as Jacksonville's O.C. -- and two relative down years since. Injuries have also played a part in that.

Decker had a stellar four-year run with Denver and the New York Jets, but was less effective during two seasons in Tennessee. The 31-year old has experience in the slot, and could be a productive No. 3 option in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Gruden doesn't mind working with veteran receivers, something clear from his past and willingness to add Nelson as a major contributor. 

Even if the Raiders don't land a veteran receiver, they could also look for a receiver in the NFL draft.

Amari Cooper will remain the No. 1 option. Seth Roberts has $4.45 million guaranteed in 2018. Johnny Holton, Isaac Whitney and Keon Hatcher are also on the roster.