Cook fumble, another poor start dooms Raiders: 'It was a huge mistake'


Cook fumble, another poor start dooms Raiders: 'It was a huge mistake'

OAKLAND -- The Raiders were down 14 points in a flash. Three minutes, 38 seconds to be exact.

The Ravens scored a touchdown five plays into Sunday’s opening drive, then another three snaps later.

The Raiders spent the rest of their day chasing a sunset. They ultimately fell 30-17 to a beatable Baltimore team, and never recovered from that terrible start.

Baltimore scored quickly on that opening drive. Sean Smith got torched for 52 yards on the first play. The Ravens combined some good runs and crossed the goal line. The start wasn’t ideal, but those things happen.

What happened next put the Raiders in a bind. Quarterback EJ Manuel found Jared Cook in the left flat and, once the veteran tight end sprinted for open space, Patrick Onwuasor popped the ball out. Jimmy Smith scooped, ran 46 yards and scored the Ravens’ second touchdown.

“I was trying to put the ball in my outside arm, and the defender came through and swiped it and tackled me at the same time,” Cook said. “That was my fault. Self-inflicted wounds are not something we need on this offense. It was a huge mistake that turned into points for them.”

The Raiders wanted to start fast Sunday, especially after falling behind early in consecutive losses. Cook’s error set the Raiders back. They never recovered.

The Silver and Black have been outscored 31-3 in the first quarter of three straight losses. Sunday’s deficit was the biggest. It didn’t force the Raiders to abandon a game plan that featured steady rushing and comfortable passes for backup EJ Manuel. The method worked, just not well enough to overcome another sagging start.

“That’s a hole you don’t want to put yourself in,” right tackle Marshall Newhouse said. “If you do that, you’re digging out the rest of the game. It’s tough. I don’t care who’s playing. That’s not the way you want to start.”

Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard touchdown run made it a one-score deficit late in the third quarter, but the Raiders defense couldn’t get the ball back quick enough. The Ravens added two late field goals to keep the game out of reach.

“We did our best to fight back, but we have to stay on the field,” Cook said. “It’s on us to be able to covert third downs and keep drives alive to help our defense and turn long drives into points.”

Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies


Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies

Former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano died unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was 56.

The Minnesota Vikings announced his passing, though an exact cause of death is unknown.

He was the Vikings offensive line coach, a position he held since 2016. Sparano had been an NFL coach for nearly two decades, with stints in Oakland and San Francisco. He was also Miami's head coach from 2008-11.

He was hired to run the Raiders offensive line in 2013, and was promoted to interim head coach after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the 2014 campaign.

Sparano showed well in that role, kept the team playing hard during a difficult 3-13 season and nearly had the interim tag removed. He was a finalist for 2015 head coaching job, though Jack Del Rio ultimately got the job.

He left the organization then, and spent the 2015 season as 49ers tight ends coach. He ended up in Minnesota after that.

Sparano helped the Raiders finished 2014 with a three wins over their final six games, which started an upward trend that carried through 2016. He also remained patient with then-rookie starter Derek Carr.

Left tackle Donald Penn joined the Raiders in 2014, and experienced a career renaissance that season under Sparano.

The Silver and Black mourned Sparano's loss.

"The Raiders family was deeply saddened to learn of Tony Sparano's passing this morning," the team said in a statement. "Tony had a deep passion for football and was embraced by the Raider Nation during his time with the Silver and Black. Tony will be sadly missed by the entire NFL community. Our hearts are with (his wife) Jeanette and the Sparano family during this extremely difficult time."

The 49ers also paid respects to the longtime NFL coach.

“The 49ers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Tony Sparano,” the 49ers said in a statement. “We share our heartfelt condolences with the Sparano family and the Minnesota Vikings.”

Sparano is survived by his wife Jeanette, their three children and four grandchildren.

Jon Gruden gets Raiders fans ready for training camp with party


Jon Gruden gets Raiders fans ready for training camp with party

To celebrate his return to the sideline, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden threw a party for fans on Friday at Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill in San Leandro.  

Raider Nation showed up in droves. 

In all, over 500 fans showed up, according to a Ricky's spokesperson.

"We are honored to be a part of the love story between Jon Gruden and this fan base," the spokesperson said. "It's incredibly special. And the significance of this event, at this time, is not lost on us."

The Raiders, Gruden, and Ricky's all collaborated on the event, which came together because of Gruden's relationship with Ricky's owners, Ricky and Tina Ricardo. Gruden paid for the catering and entertainment himself, according to the spokesperson. 

Plenty of Raiders alumni attended, including Cliff Branch and Lester Hayes, according to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. Branch even took the mic and made a guarantee. 

Gruden broke in as an NFL head coach with the Raiders in 1998, and coached Oakland for four seasons. It was in Oakland where Gruden was first given the nickname "Chucky," after the murderous puppet in the Child's Play film franchise. Gruden paid tribute to those roots at Ricky's with a... creative autograph signing. 

Raiders training camp begins on July 27. Whether or not the team will be joined by its best defensive player remains to be seen. 

Star defensive end Khalil Mack skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June in pursuit of a new contract. Gruden told fans on Friday that the team will "find a way" to bring Mack back.