Charles Woodson gives advice to Raiders rookie safety Johnathan Abram

Charles Woodson gives advice to Raiders rookie safety Johnathan Abram

NAPA – Charles Woodson can relate to Johnathan Abram.

The surefire Pro Football Hall of Famer played Abram’s position. He rocked the prestigious Raiders No. 24 and always walked with plenty of swagger.

Woodson spoke to the Raiders first-round draft pick briefly after Thursday’s joint practice between the Raiders and Rams and delivered an important message.

Don’t tone it down.

Abram was the breakout star of Tuesday’s “Hard Knocks,” season premiere, showing a willingness to talk trash, have fun even with superiors and hit really, really hard even when he’s not supposed to.

Fans formulate opinions fast based on what NFL Films let them see, and views of Abram through the “Hard Knocks” lens have been somewhat polarizing. A vocal minority dislikes his brash, fun-loving persona. He comes across as genuine in person and shows great drive and passion for football.

The Raiders love that. Woodson does, too, and told Abram not to be saying by critics.

"I said, ‘That edge you have, don’t lose it,’” Woodson said. “There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions of him right now. Don’t lose that edge, man, because if you start doing what other people want you to do, you won’t be who you’re supposed to be.”

Woodson didn’t want to compare Abram to anybody else, but says there’s plenty to like about the Mississippi State product.

“I like the confidence. I do,” Woodson said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be about what he does between the lines. You can talk, but if you back it up, nobody’s going to have a problem with that. If you’re out there making plays, you can say whatever you want to say.”

[RELATED: Gruden lauds "loyal" Raiders fans for support despite move]

Abram had made some plays in training camp and looked good during joint practices against the L.A. Rams. There’s only so much he can prove until the regular season when he’ll be a valued member of the defensive backfield.

He won’t change his attitude or demeanor and will continue to play his way.

“My philosophy is what Coach Gruden tells us every day. Just be yourself,” Abram said. “You know, don’t change up, just be yourself because that’s all that matters, at the end of the day.”

Five key Raiders to watch in NFL Week 3 clash with Minnesota Vikings


Five key Raiders to watch in NFL Week 3 clash with Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS – The Raiders start a brutal stretch of road games on Sunday in Minnesota, and find themselves labeled underdogs right off the bat.

The Raiders have the talent and game-day coaching to earn an upset against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, but they need contributions from these five Raiders to make it happen:

1. RB Josh Jacobs

The rookie running back has been effective when give the chance, churning out tough yards and taking chunks working in space. The Alabama product can do everything well, from rushing inside while making smart cuts and zone reads. He can be effective out of the backfield as well, and this might be a game Jacobs can control both in terms of time of possession and steady scoring.

The more attention Jacobs draws, the easier life will be on a passing game heavily reliant on Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller. Jacobs had 24 touches in a season opening win over Denver, and needs an equally heavy workload on Sunday. He has been dealing with an illness making its way through the locker room – head coach Jon Gruden didn’t like Jacobs announcing that fact on social media – but must persevere for the Raiders to beat a tough NFC team on the road.

2. DT Johnathan Hankins

Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook has been the NFL’s most productive running back through two weeks. He has 265 yards an three touchdowns, gaining an impressive 6.5 yards per carry.

Cook will square off against a surprisingly effective Raiders run defense ranked fifth in the NFL with 63 yards allowed per game. The Silver and Black have been tough to run against thus far, thanks in large part to Johnathan Hankins’ excellent interior line play.

He has been collapsing plays on the inside with regularity, allowing others to fly downhill and make plays on the ball carrier. Hankins has been playing most every down lately, a rarity on the defensive front, and has proven impactful against the run or pass.

“He’s a load in there, and he can move,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s a big, athletic guy who’s playing some on third down for us now, so he’s shown in the training camp that he can rush. He’s just not this big nose who can play the run and rush some.”

3. Hunter Renfrow

The Raiders need receiving targets not named Tyrell Williams or Darren Waller to take some heat off the top two guys. Renfrow’s certainly capable of creating quick separation and making tough catches. He has to prove quarterback friendly and take advantage of single coverage inside to keep the chains moving.

If he’s impactful on third downs especially, the Raiders can be more threatening than they were after the first quarter last week against Kansas City. He only has six catches for 43 yards on 11 targets, which isn’t efficient or productive enough. The Clemson product must do better in Week 3.

4. DE Arden Key

The second-year pro has not followed a solid training camp and preseason with production in games that actually count. Key’s snap count has dipped a bit, but the LSU product must be more disruptive for the Raiders pass rush to reach another gear. The Raiders have done a good job stopping the run and setting up pass-rush opportunities that aren’t being maximized at the stage.

Key has the talent to make big plays, if he can find ways to finish.

“He’s getting close each and every week,” Guenther said. “It’s going to come. It’s a lot like turnovers, everyone is saying, ‘Hey, you need turnovers!’ One of the things I’ve always said is, if you’re in position and you’re doing the things the right way, turnovers and sacks and those types of things come in bunches, so don’t press. Just keep working your techniques, keep working your moves and get off the ball.”

C Rodney Hudson

The Vikings have a savvy, talented defensive front capable of causing trouble, one the Raiders offensive line must manhandle against the run and pass despite some injury issues. Trent Brown and Denzelle Good are both questionable heading into this contest, so Hudson must orchestrate the line well regardless of who is playing. Richie Incognito returns after a two-game suspension, so Hudson must integrate him well and assist whomever lines up at right guard.

The Raiders offense falls apart without solid line play, so Hudson must play like the elite talent he is to keep the line going strong.

How Antonio Brown's Raiders-to-Patriots move could cost receiver $29M

How Antonio Brown's Raiders-to-Patriots move could cost receiver $29M

Antonio Brown got what he wanted when the Raiders released him two weeks ago, but the move could cost him nearly $30 million. 

Brown joined the New England Patriots hours after Oakland cut him at his request once the $29.125 million in contract guarantees were voided by the Raiders. He signed an incentive-laden deal with New England for $1 million guaranteed and a $9 million signing bonus, and it's possible Brown sees very little of that. 

The Patriots cut Brown on Friday after Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that someone with a phone number believed to be Brown's reportedly sent intimidating text messages to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct. They might have to pay Brown his signing bonus through a representation warranty clause that says the four-time All-Pro breached his contract by not disclosing "an existing situation that would have prevented his continued availability," a league source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano. If Brown was aware he was facing a federal lawsuit from his former trainer Britney Taylor alleging sexual assault, New England wouldn't have to pay either installment of his signing bonus Monday and on Jan. 15. 

As ESPN's Field Yates pointed out Saturday morning, Brown's potential final 2019 salary -- assuming he does not sign elsewhere this season -- would look much different than when the Raiders traded for the receiver in March and signed him to a new deal.  

To be exact: Subtracting Brown's single game check from his $29.125 million Raiders guarantee leaves him $28,966,677 shy of the money he thought he would receive in his re-worked deal. 

[RELATED: AB's texts reportedly were final straw for Patriots owner]

Brown thanked the Patriots for his short stint in Foxboro after his release Friday, but it's very possible he'll sing a different tune if New England does not pay his bonus. ESPN reported Friday that a signing bonus is thought to be "money earned" by the NFL Players Association, and the union likely would file a grievance on Brown's behalf if the Patriots tried not to pay his bonus. 

Even though he's now looking to join his fourth team this calendar year, don't expect Brown's name to fall out of headlines any time soon. 

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