Raiders

Goodell defends Raiders' compliance with Rooney Rule

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Goodell defends Raiders' compliance with Rooney Rule

Editor's note: Raiders Insider Scott Bair is in Minneapolis all week long covering Super Bowl festivities -- check out Scott's archive as he files stories and podcasts leading up to the big game on Sunday  

MINNEAPOLIS – Raiders owner Mark Davis  desperately wanted Jon Gruden to be his next head coach and no one else. He probably would have retained Jack Del Rio without Gruden somewhat waiting in the wings.

Gruden was Davis’ clear choice after the coaching vacancy truly opened, eliminating the need to go through the song and dance of interviewing other candidates. They did, however, have to check a box.

The NFL’s Rooney Rule stipulates a team must interview at least one minority candidate for positions of power, particularly general manager and head coach.

The Raiders interviewed tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin for the gig after it was clear Gruden was the guy.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance – responsible for policing the Rooney Rule and the advancement of minority candidates -- didn’t like the way it was handled, and issued a statement saying they believe the Raiders violated the edict.

The NFL disagrees. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the NFL conducted a thorough investigation into the Raiders’ hiring practices and found no wrongdoing.

“There was a full investigation by our staff, and we went into great detail,” Goodell said in a press conference. “We interviewed every one of the participants…and we decided they were in compliance with the Rooney Rule. Again, we spoke to every single won of the participants to make sure that was the case.”

The NFL has only fined one team for a Rooney Rule violation. Then commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined Detroit Lion general manager (and former Raider) Matt Millen $200,000 for hiring Steve Mariucci without properly vetting minority candidates.

The NFL deemed the Raiders, who have been pioneers when hiring minority candidates, did not violate that rule.

Here's the Fritz Pollard Alliance statement in its entirety:

"We strongly disagree with the NFL's conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule. We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders' owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.

 

"The Rooney Rule, in place since 2003, exists to ensure open selection processes that promote fair competition for everybody involved. It has made the NFL a torchbearer for equal opportunity in sports. Entering the 2017 season, half of the NFL's clubs were led by a minority head coach or general manager, and, impressively, ten Super Bowl teams over the last decade have had a minority head coach or general manager at the helm, proving that open competition produces the best results. That lesson has resounded well beyond the NFL. The federal government, Silicon Valley companies and small municipalities have all adopted forms of the Rooney Rule in recent years. So have entities overseas. Just last week, the Football Association in England -- soccer's oldest and most influential national governing body -- announced that it would implement the Rooney Rule when searching for head coaches for its national soccer teams at all age levels.

 

"The NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance. Davis crossed the line, and we are disappointed in the League's decision. The Rooney Rule and all of the League's equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. We have called for meetings with the League to ensure that a process like this never happens again."

 

Raiders give Conley green light, Melifonwu 'doesn't look close at all'

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Raiders give Conley green light, Melifonwu 'doesn't look close at all'

The Raiders have been cautious with Gareon Conley’s return from shin surgery. The cornerback’s clearance turned from red to yellow earlier in the offseason program, but finally went green in time to start the OTAs.

Last year’s first-round pick was reportedly a first-team cover man during the Raiders first OTA session on Tuesday. It was one of three open to the media.

The Raiders plan for him to be there throughout the regular season, and believe he has the makings of a No. 1 cornerback.

Head coach Jon Gruden has been excited to see the Ohio State product in action, as part of cornerback corps also featuring Rashaan Melvin and Daryl Worley.

“Yeah, it’s great to see Conley out there,” Gruden said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “We’re counting on him. We need him. But to see Rashaan Melvin and Conley and [Daryl] Worley competing is really exciting.

Conley was impressive during his first offseason program, until he hurt his shin during the team’s June 2017 minicamp. Conley barely played after that, with two games action and a handful of limited practices. He had surgery to repair his shin in Nov. 2017, and was eased back into action somewhat.

Conley doesn’t have an injury history save last year’s mishap, and could have a real impact if he remains healthy and continues to progress.

“Conley is special,” Gruden said. “He’s a top pick in this draft for a reason. I think from a confidence standpoint, he needs to get some work in out here.”

The player Oakland selected after Conley last year still hasn’t been cleared to work. Safety Obi Melifonwu wasn’t able to participate in Tuesday’s team drills, the first time this offseason offense and defense can play against each other.

The UConn product missed last season’s first half recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and then needed hip surgery after the season. He still isn’t ready for a return.

“It doesn’t look close at all,” Gruden said. “I’ll leave it at that. He doesn’t look close, to me, at all.”

Physical issues are problematic for a player looking to earn a role on the team. The team is stocked at safety, with Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist leading the way.

“He doesn’t look ready to roll yet,” Gruden said. “So, I don’t let anybody practice without being able to go physically. He doesn’t look like he’s 100 percent. I haven’t seen much of Obi except in the training room.”

NOTES

-- Khalil Mack was not present for the start of voluntary OTAs, as expected. The elite edge rusher has missed the entire offseason program to this point, withholding services while waiting for a big-money contract extension the the Raiders have budgeted to give him. 

-- Gruden said receiver Amari Cooper is dealing with a hamstring injury.

-- Left tackle Donald Penn is working his way back from foot surgery, and participated in individual drills on Tuesday. He was held back during team sessions, leaving David Sharpe to take first-team reps at left tackle. Breno Giacomini manned the first-team right tackle spot.

-- Rookies Kolton Miller (left tackle) and Brandon Parker (right tackle) worked with reserve units at this stage. Gruden was impressed with how both players absorbed the offense.

-- Fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson remains out recovering from meniscus surgery. As previously reported, he’s expected back for training camp.

-- The Raiders are planning to have training camp practices against another team, but Gruden didn’t want to reveal the opponent until arrangements are finalized.

Raiders acquire 2016 second-round QB from Jets

Raiders acquire 2016 second-round QB from Jets

The Raiders added a fourth quarterback to the roster, trading a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick to the New York Jets for Christian Hackenberg.

Jets head coach Todd Bowles announced the transaction during a Tuesday meeting with local media.

Hackenberg joins a quarterback room that already contains starter Derek Carr and reserves EJ Manuel and Connor Cook.

Hackenberg was a second-round draft choice in 2016, but never played a regular-season NFL snap. He dressed for just five games.

He’ll be competing for a roster spot in Oakland, as the Raiders will keep a maximum of three quarterbacks.

The Jets were clearly looking for new signal callers this offseason and got them, signing Teddy Bridgewater in free agency before drafting USC’s Sam Darnold third overall in the NFL draft.

Hackenberg took a thinly veiled shot at the Jets Tuesday morning, questioning why a throwing motion overhauled by private coaches wasn't done earlier by the Jets. He was traded later that day

Hackenberg was taken two rounds before Cook in the 2016 draft – the Raiders traded up to get Cook in the fourth -- and both guys have failed to find footing on an NFL roster. Cook has been the No. 3 quarterback in two professional seasons, save an emergency playoff start in the 2016 season.

Manuel is older, though fared well in limited action last year.

Hackenberg has plenty of arm strength but has struggled with accuracy, and couldn’t secure the Jets’ starting spot that was most always up for grabs.

"I'm 23 and I got a lot of ball ahead of me," Hackenberg said Tuesday per the New York Daily News. "Hell, my career hasn't even started yet. So I'm excited about what the future holds."

News of the trade broke after Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s Tuesday media session, meaning he was not immediately available to comment on the transaction.