Raiders

Ex-Bucs claim Barrett Robbins' absence just excuse for Raiders' loss

Ex-Bucs claim Barrett Robbins' absence just excuse for Raiders' loss

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

A number of factors went into the Raiders' demoralizing defeat at the hands of Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. The story behind the mysterious disappearance of Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins is revealed in NBC Sports' latest Sports Uncovered podcast, which was released Thursday.

Robbins missing the biggest game of his life no doubt played a role in the 48-21 thrashing the Raiders suffered. As did coach Bill Callahan's puzzling decision to alter the game plan at the last minute. But some Raiders believe Gruden and the Bucs knew their plays and formations, making the rout all but a certainty, blaming Callahan for giving the game to his former boss.

To a few former Buccaneers, though, all of that is just a bunch of excuses.

"The fact that your center went to Tijuana and got lost, and all of a sudden, um, he's not the quarterback," said Booger McFarland, who was a defensive tackle for the Bucs. "He's not the star wideout. He's not the star defensive player. He's the center."

"I've seen [Bill] Romanowski at a couple different events," Shelton Quarles said. "I've seen Rich [Gannon] at a couple of different events. And we've had conversations, and they're like, 'Oh, well you guys got lucky because Barret Robbins was out. We had a backup center, and our game plan was to run the ball down your throat.' OK, well, then just run your game plan. If that's something you practiced all week then run that."

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

As for the charge that Gruden and the Bucs knew the Raiders' plays, Tampa Bay had seen the scheme before. Every day.

"It's the same offense that Jon Gruden ran when he was there," McFarland said. "So, we practiced against the same offense for a year. So, if you're not going to change any of the same audibles that Gruden uses in Tampa, then that's on you."

In the end, Robbins' absence didn't play a huge role in the Bucs' romp. Gruden and the Buccaneers were ready for anything and everything the Raiders were going to throw at them, and Callahan was outmatched from the opening kick-off.

The Raiders approached the matchup as if they had already won the Super Bowl. Owning the league's No. 1 offense and facing a Bucs team no one expected to be there, some members of the Silver and Black were ready for the parade.

"I was like, 's--t, I'm about to get my second ring,'" defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "We about to drag these jokers. They ain't doing nothing against us. Nothing. We about to whoop these jokers."

But once Callahan made the last-minute game plan switch, Tim Brown and the rest of the Raiders entered Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego knowing they weren't bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.

"We go into the Super Bowl knowing that we don't have a chance to win," Brown said.

[RELATED: How Davis told Trask of Robbins' Super Bowl disappearance]

The Raiders' defeat at the hands of Gruden and the Bucs can be laid at the feet of many people.

Barret Robbins was an easy scapegoat at the time. The center went out and partied too hard and missed the game, so it's his fault. Years later we know better. The Raiders knew better in the moment.

Even if he had suited up, the Bucs were prepared to slow down Callahan's offensive attack. Almost like they knew what was coming.

Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs' insane one-handed catch shows potential

Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs' insane one-handed catch shows potential

It's no secret how fast Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs is. With his 4.27 40-yard dash speed, he's in the end zone in the blink of an eye.

The Raiders were enamored with Ruggs' speed, and rightfully so. That certainly played a big role in the Silver and Black selecting the former Alabama receiver with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it wasn't the only reason. 

Ruggs had some of the best hands in the draft, and he proved that with an insane one-handed grab for a touchdown early on in Raiders training camp. 

It's easy to see why the Raiders fell in love with Ruggs before the draft. He tallied 86 receptions for 1,487 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns his final two years for the Crimson Tide. Ruggs should have a big role in the offense, and the hope is he connects right away with quarterback Derek Carr. 

So far, so good. 

Ruggs should be used all over the field as a rookie, as the Raiders find ways to get the ball in his hands. And it appears he will start off in the slot. 

[RELATED: Raiders rookie Edwards compared to two Pro Bowl wideouts]

“We’ll start with Ruggs III in the slot and do some things with Ruggs III," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said to reporters last week, via Raiders Wire. "But those guys (Ruggs and Bryan Edwards) are very multiple in what they can do and that’s the goal is to be able to move all of them around to different spots; the one, two or three position at the wide receiver.”

Whether it be on the inside or outside, Ruggs will play a big part in the Raiders' offense right away. His ridiculous one-handed grab was just another preview of what's to come.

Raiders could turn to rookie Javin White to fill need to linebacker

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Raiders could turn to rookie Javin White to fill need to linebacker

With every word that an NFL coach utters these days, it would be naive not to think there is a calculation factor to almost everything they say, especially when offering unsolicited insight into a specific player.

So it was worth noting that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden singled out UNLV rookie Javin White on Thursday when assessing the Raiders’ linebacker situation.

The rebuilt unit added two prominent veterans in free agency last March, and both Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski bring experience, proven production and much-needed pass coverage ability as three-down players.

But there is an open position alongside them at weakside linebacker, and with no clear-cut favorite to claim the job, Gruden and his defensive staff will spend the next three weeks assessing a handful of candidates before declaring a winner.

Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal