Raiders

Jon Gruden, Raiders will be focus of HBO's new season of 'Hard Knocks'

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Jon Gruden, Raiders will be focus of HBO's new season of 'Hard Knocks'

ALAMEDA – Jon Gruden and the Raiders are getting the reality-show treatment.

The Silver and Black will be the subject of the latest season of HBO's "Hard Knocks," the Raiders announced Tuesday.

 

Hours before the announcement, Gruden appeared to know something the rest of the world didn't when he was asked Tuesday how top Raiders rookies are integrating into his team.

The Raiders head coach gushed about first-round picks Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Abram and Josh Jacobs, their progress through the offseason program and what’s coming up for them in training camp.

“Who knows, maybe Hard Knocks will come and cover that,” Gruden said. “That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?”

There was no smile accompanying that out-of-left-field line, only a scowl that never morphed into his disarming eyebrow raise.

It was clear Gruden was less than thrilled, as the decision was made officially official Tuesday afternoon, just as their first minicamp practice ended.

There was no opportunity given to gauge reaction to the news, but most Raiders standing before a microphone this spring were asked about the prospect.

The Silver and Black, after all, were among five teams who could be forced to do NFL Films’ annual training camp documentary show, which airs in weekly installments on HBO. The first episode airs Aug. 6.

The New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Washington and the 49ers were also in the mix, though more than one campaign for the Raiders as feature subject.

Washington head coach Jay Gruden came out strongest for the Raiders iin comments last week.

“I’m not talking to my brother again,” Jon Gruden said.

Jon was joking that time, though Raiders top brass aren’t excited about the prospect. Owner Mark Davis said at the NFL owners meetings in March that “it’s not the right time.”

It would make sense for the Raiders to prefer a 2020 casting, after formally moving to Las Vegas to play in a new stadium and market. Now, the focus will be on the team’s last year in Oakland and quite possibly its final season training in Napa.

The NFL couldn’t pass up showcasing the Raiders this time despite some within the team not wanting it.

“I told (head coach Jon Gruden), if they make us do it I’ll fire you and then hire you right back,” Davis said back in March. “After all, they can’t make you do it with a new coach.”

They are, after all, must-see TV.

The Silver and Black are loaded with big personalities and built-in storylines, with Antonio Brown most prominent among them.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to display my will and show guys what I’m about, no matter who’s here,” Brown said two weeks ago when asked about being featured on the hit HBO show. “Obviously, I’m here to represent the Raiders’ organization and whatever comes with that I’m embracing.”

The Raiders also have Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito in-house, with quarterback Derek Carr at strong personality looking for a rebound year. The Raiders also have three first-round picks, with Jacobs and Ferrell making excellent feature subjects.

Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock also have extensive television backgrounds, following prominent media careers before assuming current roles. They’ll both be quote machines, with Gruden’s colorful, not-always-PG-13 discussions in practice now available for use.

Teams have a large say in what makes air, but there will be some drama and big moments in the show for superstars and unknown players alike.

“I think it would be fun,” cornerback Daryl Worley said. “We have a lot of new personalities, new guys on the team. I don’t feel like I would be a star of it just because I’m not that big of a talker or anything, but it’ll definitely be fun.”

[RELATED: Gruden impressed by Warriors, sends best wishes to KD]

Burfict and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther have experience doing the show while with Cincinnati, and neither guy found it overly intrusive.

“I really don’t think [so],” Guenther said last week. “They do a really good job of staying out of your way. You can see, kind of, what’s going to be on the show. I think the positive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on the staff that, ‘Hey, when the camera is on you are you going to be a different guy or a different player or if you’re not.’ Because really after the third day, you don’t notice, you’re so used to having them around that you just go about your business. I don’t really pay attention to where the cameras are in the building. You just go about and coach the guys how you know how to coach them and that’s all you know how to do.”

How Myles Garrett suspension affects Raiders, AFC playoff race

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How Myles Garrett suspension affects Raiders, AFC playoff race

The Browns might be back in the AFC playoff race, but they'll have to march on without their best player.

On Friday, the NFL suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett indefinitely for his actions during the brawl at the end of Cleveland's 21-7 win over the Steelers on Thursday night.

You've probably seen the video by now. After sacking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, Garrett and the young quarterback got into an altercation on the ground. Eventually, Garrett ripped Rudolph's helmet off, causing the quarterback to charge at him while two Steelers linemen worked to separate the two. As Rudolph charged, Garrett swung the helmet at Rudolph, connecting with the quarterback's head, leading to the full-on brawl.

After opening the season with a tough schedule that saw them go 2-6, the Browns have rebounded with wins over the Bills and Steelers to climb back to 4-6. They currently sit 1.5 behind the Raiders for the No. 6 seed in the AFC but have the second easiest schedule remaining. 

The Steelers' loss allowed the Raiders to jump them, and Pittsburgh will be without center Maurkice Pouncey for the next three games, making their path to the playoffs even tougher. 

The Raiders sit at 5-4 with games against the Bengals and Jets over the next two weeks. The Silver and Black will be favored in both those games, and will be 7-4 heading into a Week 13 game against the Chiefs should they take care of business.

Cleveland has shown life over the past two weeks, and the Browns have the talent to make a run at the playoffs in the mediocre AFC. The Browns play the 2-7 Dolphins in Week 12 before facing the Steelers again in Week 13. After that rivalry game, the Browns close with two games against the winless Bengals, a battle with the Cardinals and a tough game against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.

All of those games are winnable. The Browns already beat the Ravens earlier this season. The addition of Kareem Hunt has given the Browns an added offensive dimension and they could get on a roll if the confidence starts flowing.

It will be tough without Garrett anchoring the defense, though. The Browns defense has played well over the last two weeks and Garrett surely would feast on the Dolphins and Bengals in the coming weeks.

To pass the Raiders, Colts, Steelers and/or Bills, the Browns likely will need to 5-1 the rest of the way and hope for a few of those teams to continue to falter. That's more than possible. The Raiders have won a ton of close games, the Bills reek of being fraudulent, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is banged up and the Steelers crawled back to .500 with smoke and mirrors.

Grit, toughness and resiliency have been the Raiders' calling card this season, one they are hoping can get them through what has been a trying season and back to the playoffs for the second time since 2002.

After surviving their long road trip, the Raiders won back-to-back games over the Lions and Chargers and are primed to be riding a four-game winning streak heading into Kansas City with the AFC West lead potentially on the line. Everything is in front of them.

[RELATED: What clicked for Raiders' Ferrell in signature game]

The Browns were a trendy Super Bowl pick before the season started, and some thought a late-season run to the playoffs was in the cards for Freddy Kitchens' crew.

The soft late-season schedule helps, but losing Garrett will be tough to overcome. If the Browns are to crash the playoff party Baker Mayfield will have to take his play up a notch and find the chemistry with Odell Beckham Jr. so many thought they'd exhibit from Day 1.

The Raiders have bigger goals in front of them than a wild-card spot, but they might have one less team to contend with for one of the final two spots should the Chiefs pull away in the AFC West.

What clicked for Raiders rookie Clelin Ferrell in impressive stretch

What clicked for Raiders rookie Clelin Ferrell in impressive stretch

ALAMEDA – Clelin Ferrell stepped on the scale Thursday morning, looked down at the number below and flashed his signature smile.

The readout was the reason why: 266 pounds.

The Raiders defensive lineman finally was back to his playing weight.

The experience was a lot different after coming back from a week in the United Kingdom dealing with concussion-like symptoms and a stomach flu that made it, shall we say, hard to keep things down.

“When we got back from London, I stepped on a scale and I was 250,” Ferrell said. “I couldn’t believe it, but it wasn’t just the weight. I felt bad and I felt weak.”

Ferrell hasn’t been that light in six years. Getting there wasn’t pretty. Getting back to his playing size and strength took some time, but Ferrell’s return to health was well-timed.

It came accompanied by an on-field epiphany. Or, as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther put it, “the light came on.”

“You can just tell with the look in a guys’ eyes,” Guenther said. “You know when he starts making plays, you can start saying, ‘Hey I’m starting to figure this out.’ It’s the look in the guys’ eyes and the way he’s handling himself.”

Something clicked during a Week 9 victory over Detroit, where he had three huge run stops and three quarterback pressures, including one that flustered Matt Stafford on the final play of the Lions' failed comeback attempt.

Guenther approached the No. 4 overall pick after that win and could tell right away that something was different. He was right, and Ferrell knew exactly why.

“Facing the Detroit Lions was the first game where I felt comfortable with everything that I was asked to do,” Ferrell said. “Before, it was like, ‘I’m comfortable with this and this, not so sure about this over here.’

“I have been asked to do a lot of stuff. The whole practice week leading up to it, I felt really good with everything. I felt comfortable and that I could just go out there and play and put my own flavor on it and freestyle a bit. I really understood my responsibilities and I felt really good.”

That wasn’t a one-off. Ferrell built upon that with a breakout game last week against the LA Chargers, totaling 2.5 sacks, two other quarterback pressures, a batted pass and six run stops. Ferrell paced an all-out assault on quarterback Philip Rivers, where the pass rush made a significant impact on a dramatic win.

Ferrell didn’t say much after the game, answering one question before leaving the Raiders' locker room. Many said the Clemson product needed a game like that, especially after absorbing fan criticism for not producing enough, especially relative to his lofty draft slot.

Ferrell doesn’t care much about numbers. He’s concerned with two things: wins and personal impact. He admitted, in that instance, it was nice to have a good game in ways all can understand.

“When you’re chasing stats, you’re not focusing on what you need to do to win,” Ferrell said. “It’s always good to shut people up a little bit. People can get on your nerves. Not that it’s getting to me, but you hate hearing nonsense, especially when they aren’t that informed. I don’t blame people for that. It is what it is, and I’ve been through this before when I was in college. I’ve always had the spotlight on me. It just comes with the game.”

Lights were always bright at Clemson. That comes with the territory as a perennial championship contender.

The same goes for top-five NFL draft picks, so the scrutiny was sky-high even over such an early portion of his career.

But not from inside the Raiders organization.

The Silver and Black were asking Ferrell to do a ton. He stepped right in as a three-down player, asked to play inside far more than he did in college. That was an adjustment, one he insists he’s comfortable with despite a productive athletic career playing off the edge. He has played several techniques to service defensive line needs, doing some dirty work that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.

“He does a lot more than just rush the passer,” head coach Jon Gruden said after beating the Chargers. “He made some great plays against the run. It was a signature game for him obviously, but it’s great for him to get some sacks. Maybe some of the people who are counting sacks out there will acknowledge this.”

Ferrell isn’t counting them. He’ll evaluate himself through a different lens.

“The biggest thing for me is wins and losses and whether I feel like I played well,” Ferrell said. “I don’t really care about stats, you know what I mean? Numbers are good but seeing the success I had and the big role I played in two huge wins was really, really good.”

[RELATED: Raiders going 'all hands on deck' with Jordan, Swearinger]

Continuing this positive trend is the next step, one that renewed health and increased comfort within his role will help achieve.

“He needs to keep it going. Clelin’s coming off his best game,” Guenther said. “I really think the light came on for him in the second half of the Detroit game. Walking off the field with him I was like, ‘I think the light just came on for you. Really.’ And then he went out against the Chargers and played really well, so hopefully he can keep playing at a high level.”