Jon Gruden isn’t a fan of access restrictions in the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement. The new Raiders head coach’s first three months were spent without much player interaction thanks to the CBA’s offseason guidelines, a point of frustration Gruden regularly expressed during this downtime.
He couldn’t slip quarterback Derek Carr a playbook. He couldn’t spend hours asking Khalil Mack what plays fit him best, or finding out exactly what makes Amari Cooper tick.
Gruden exchanged pleasantries with those cruising through the Raiders complex but, by law, could talk football.
That period is now over. The Raiders offseason program begins Monday morning, voluntary sessions where most every player and coach will be under the same roof for the first time.
It’s a big moment for Gruden and the franchise. That doesn’t mean he’ll commemorate it with a fire and brimstone address. It will not be a tone setter. His speech, as will everything that happens this offseason, will be focused on efficiency.
“I’m not going to have a long meeting or say a whole lot,” Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings. “…We’re only allowed to have them four hours per day, so I’m not going to talk to them for two hours. I’m going to get them downstairs and really sell our strength and conditioning program.”
That’s smart, considering that’s the focus of the offseason program’s initial phase. The first two weeks are spent primarily with the strength and conditioning staff.
That effort’s led by a new man with a large staff. Tom Shaw is a widely respected trainer who has worked for NFL teams and, most recently, ran a private training facility in Orlando, Fla. Shaw hired four assistant strength coaches, including Gruden’s son Deuce.
“We have a new program downstairs that is totally different than what has been going on there,” Gruden said. “…Tom Shaw is great. He’s proven. I want them to lift and run and be together for three hours, and then I want them to come upstairs and do football for an hour that first week. I want them to get excited about being a Raider and learning our system and building relationships.
“Trust. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t have any relationships with anybody, and that’s a challenge. That’s also a big reason I’m back. I’m looking forward to having our players and our team and our Raiders working together.”
Gruden has a limited amount of time, and he plans to maximize each moment with his players.
“We’re working for four hours. Not a second less, not a second more,” Gruden said. “I’ll have a two minute warning.”
The Raiders have four hours per day, four days a week and never on a weekend.
Gruden will focus on teaching and building bonds with his players during the first phase. He can’t do much more. The second phase allows for restricted on-field work. The third includes OTAs and minicamps.
All told, the Raiders have nine weeks with their players over a 12-week period. That stretch will include 10 OTAs, a voluntary veteran minicamp, a rookie minicamp and a mandatory minicamp in June.
Gruden and staff have tons to accomplish during this offseason program, and don’t want to waste a moment.
“The most important things for us as a staff is to have the best meetings in football,” Gruden said. “To do that, you have to prepare harder for your meetings than you ever did before. If you have one hour, there had better be three hours of content. You can tell stories and have a good time.
“When you’re on the practice field, every second has to be accounted for. Players want that. They want discipline on the field. They want organization, and that all starts with the coaching staff. Fortunately, we’ve hired some really good people.”