EJ Manuel inspires confidence despite not completing comeback in Denver


EJ Manuel inspires confidence despite not completing comeback in Denver

DENVER – The Raiders know all to well what happens when Derek Carr goes down. That happened late last year, and the Raiders completely unraveled.

They lost a chance to win the AFC West in Denver, and got waxed in a playoff game at Houston.

They used Matt McGloin and Connor Cook last year. They have EJ Manuel now.

The veteran backup took over when Carr suffered a back injury late in the third quarter of Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Broncos. While he didn’t complete the comeback, Manuel fared well down the final stretch.

He was 11-for-17 for 106 yards. He led the Raiders on a field goal drive. And he had them knocking on the door to score a later game-winning touchdown before he was baited into a interception.

Amari Cooper looked open a first, but safety Justin Simmons closed quickly and secured victory for Denver with a pick.

That throw, and some misuse of timeouts, were pockmarks on an otherwise decent performance under tough circumstances.

“I understood the situation and my biggest thing was just getting in a rhythm as fast as possible,” Manuel said. “I haven’t gone with the first team since we started the season. The situation is what it is. You’ve got to perform. I’ll go back and watch the tape and move forward.”

Carr’s back injury isn’t a long-term thing, and there’s a legitimate chance he plays next week against Baltimore. Manuel will be ready if he can’t go, and should give the Raiders a better chance that reserves did late last season. He showed some moxie, which instilled confidence in his teammates should he been needed again.

“He did a good job, a really good job,” tight end Jared Cook said. “That is what we need when guys go down, for guys to step up, fill their role, play their position and come up big.”

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.