Jon Gruden 'still not happy' with Vontaze Burfict's 12-game suspension

Jon Gruden 'still not happy' with Vontaze Burfict's 12-game suspension

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders hoped and prayed that NFL appeals officer Derrick Brooks would be lenient when it came to Vontaze Burfict's Week 4 hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle. 

The helmet-to-helmet hit got the Raiders middle linebacker ejected from the game, and caused the NFL to suspend Burfict for the remainder of the season. Burfict appealed the ruling and head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr spoke on his behalf, trying to make Brooks see Burfict had been a model player since arriving in Oakland, and one that has tried to change his game to adjust to the focus on player safety. 

That fell on deaf ears as Brooks elected to uphold the suspension, banning Burfict for 12 games. 

It was a suspension that is unprecedented for on-field action, and one that still has Gruden steaming. 

"You got to have linebackers, you know," Gruden told reporters Wednesday. "If someone comes out and wants to play old-fashioned, big-boy football, you got to have linebackers. Losing Burfcit's big. I'm still not happy about it. I'm just not happy about it. We believe in player safety. We coach it, we believe in it, we really stress it. But 12 games, I'm not happy about that. I'm not happy about it. But it is what it is and we'll get (Justin Phillips) and Dakota Allen and whoever the next man up is and get them ready to go." 

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With Burfict gone, the Raiders have only five linebackers on the active roster and have mostly played in their nickel defense since the ejection, relying on Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow to man the linebacker positions. 

Whitehead has been tasked with taking over the communication responsibilities on the defense with Burfict gone, and playing a majority of snaps in their base defense worked well in a Week 5 win over the Bears in London. 

Whether or not that strategy continues to work, though, remains to be seen. 

Boo birds chirp as Derek Carr, Raiders offense continues downward slide


Boo birds chirp as Derek Carr, Raiders offense continues downward slide

OAKLAND – The Raiders offense was humming to start Sunday’s game against Tennessee. They found end zones on three of four first-half drives, and entered the break tied with the Titans.

Then the wheels came off. The offense never scored during a disastrous second half featuring four punts, a lost fumble and a turnover on downs following a fourth-and-goal throwaway. Things never got better in another terrible result ending with a 42-21 loss to the Titans at Oakland Coliseum.

The tide turned in the third quarter, after consecutive, fruitless three-and-outs. After the second one, boo birds came out. They were chirping a bit before that, but voiced displeasure in unison. Fans were frustrated with the offense and seemed bothered most by Derek Carr’s play in particular at that point.

They didn’t like the optics of Carr tossing a pass out of bounds on fourth down, even with time winding down and the game out of reach.

Home fans have booed Carr before. They can be short-tempered, especially when things aren’t going right.

Carr put the boos in perspective, and therefore didn’t take them personally after a third-straight blowout loss.

“It’s happened before. You play here long enough and that will occur,” Carr said. “We have a rowdy group and that’s why we love them. They’re passionate, and they just want to win. It’s just like family. Even when they’re mad at you, they still want to hug you. They still want you to do well. I understand that frustration. I think I showed some emotion, too. I don’t think anything of it. It has happened for six years.”

Carr’s final line looks pretty nice. He completed 25-of-34 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, good for a 115.2 passer rating. The outcome and second-half fade didn’t feel quite as good, but the Raiders were proud of their quarterback’s effort in a third consecutive blowout loss.

“I think he played really well today, Carr did, given what’s going on around him,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think there’s a big story there. At least we recognize it. We’re really proud of the way he’s competing and performing with all the moving pieces.”

Gruden’s referring to the offensive injuries piling up over the last few weeks, with a list of key players sidelined for Sunday’s game. Running back Josh Jacobs finally succumbed to a shoulder injury after playing through it since Week 7. Right tackle Trent Brown is down with a pectoral injury. Receiver Hunter Renfrow is down another game at least with rib injuries and a punctured lung. Foster Moreau suffered a knee injury in this one and might be done for the year. That’s another huge blow to the offense, and it’s surely impacting execution and an ability to sustain drives.

Carr didn’t want to hear that and didn’t want injury setbacks to excuse poor play.

“This game is next man up,” Carr said. “Nobody cares about our situation. Nobody cares who is playing. Nobody cares who has been here, who has not been here. The people who have played this position, played that. I have learned that in my six years. Nobody cares. We didn’t win the football game and it is what it is.”

The Raiders haven’t won since Nov. 17, when they beat the Bengals at home. They have been outscored 116-33 since. It sure seems like the Raiders have run out of gas down the stretch, unable to perform to earlier levels due to attrition and lack of execution. They can look good in spurts – take the first half versus Tennessee for example – but can’t sustain it.

The Raiders have struggled on both sides of the ball and have hit a rough patch they might not leave before the season’s out.

“We’re a tight football team that is competing hard,” Gruden said. “We’re missing some of the players that helped us win those three straight games. The Golden State Warriors are going through a similar process. It’s not as easy to win when you’re not playing with your frontline guys. It works out for the development of some young players, but it’s on me. It’s my responsibility to fix it and it certainly doesn’t look good the last few weeks.”

Why Gruden wasn't mad about Derek Carr's throw away on fourth-and-goal


Why Gruden wasn't mad about Derek Carr's throw away on fourth-and-goal

OAKLAND -- Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hung in the pocket one second after another surveying and surveying and surveying some more, waiting in vain for someone to come free. He moved slightly to his left and then rolled back right, with Derek Carrier and Zay Jones running parallel with him.

Neither guy was open, so Carr eventually elected to throw it away.

That’s when the boos came. It was to be expected, considering the concession came on fourth-and-goal from the 1. That wasn’t a major moment. The Raiders were down three scores late in the game. That play’s outcome wouldn’t have mattered much either way.

It was, however, essentially still a tap out. Carr could've given Jones or Carrier a chance to make a play but didn't. At minimum, the optics weren't great. Ultimately, however, head coach Jon Gruden wasn’t upset over that play’s result.

“I think he kept the play alive for like 12 seconds. It wasn’t like he just aborted the ball,” Gruden said. “He exhausted that play for what it was. I’m not going to stand here and say that was a turning point in the game.”

Carr didn’t have anybody open and bought time, but didn’t try to force it anywhere when nobody was open and he ran out of real estate heading toward the sideline.

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“They put us into a scramble drill,” Carr said. “I tried to extend the play in the pocket, like we’ve been working on. I tried to find somebody in the pocket and then as soon as they got close I tried to extend it outside the pocket. I promise you I wrung out the whole [towel] on that one.

“There were seven defensive backs looking at me, waiting for the ball. It is what it is.”