Whenever Aldon returns, Raiders will be 'happy to get our brother back'

Whenever Aldon returns, Raiders will be 'happy to get our brother back'

ALAMEDA – A pair of videos were posted Wednesday featuring Raiders edge rusher Aldon Smith. The first was a workout montage filmed during a private session in San Francisco. The second was a short interview where Smith talked about positive results coming from hard work and saying he “won’t be defeated” by adversity.

A rare Smith cameo came on the eve of his eligibility for reinstatement following a calendar year banished for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr wasn’t sure what to make of it. He tweeted at Aldon Smith Wednesday night, saying “almost time brother! Can’t wait until you’re back!”

Smith wasn’t back on the first day eligible to return. There is no timetable for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to rule on his application for reinstatement, which was filed last month. It could come at any time from now on, assuming Goodell views Smith’s application favorably.

Raiders officials aren’t allowed to have contact with Smith during this down period, though players can reach out. Carr has done so recently.

“I’ve talked back and forth to him as a friend, texted him,” quarterback Derek Carr said before Thursday’s practice. “To be completely honest, nothing about football. I tweeted him yesterday because he posted that video and I was excited. I was like, ‘Man, is he telling us something?’ I don’t know. Whenever we get him back, we’ll be happy to get our brother back.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said last week the Raiders are in wait-and-see mode regarding a possible Smith return. On Thursday, he said “nothing has changed” in that regard.

Smith played nine games with the Raiders last season before the league took punitive action against him for multiple violations of the NFL substance abuse policy. That stemmed from his latest run-in with the law, an Aug. 2015 incident which brought about misdemeanor chargers of DUI, hit and run and vandalism.

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 percent of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.