Raiders

NFL suspends Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib for brawl

NFL suspends Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib for brawl

ALAMEDA – Aqib Talib was completely unprovoked in ripping a gold chain off Michael Crabtree nearly 11 months ago. There was no warning, no history, no beef.

Crabtree didn’t retaliate in that game, saying he made a “business decision.” An AFC West title on the line, and a playoff game. Crabtree knew the Raiders couldn’t afford to play without him in that game or the future.

That same thought didn’t prevail Sunday afternoon. Crabtree put on a chain before Sunday’s game between the Raiders and Broncos, the first time he and Talib would share a field since the original incident. He taped it to his body, according to ESPN.

That report suggests Crabtree knew trouble was brewing. He had plenty of time to consider another business decision. He didn’t make the same choice.

Crabtree seemed to punch cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in the gut to start the Raiders’ second drive. The Broncos cornerback took exception.

Crabtree was lined up with Talib on the next play. They locked horns, and then things got out of control. Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain again. This time, the veteran receiver didn’t hold back. He drove Talib into the ground, and a brawl broke out. Punches were thrown, helmets were ripped off and facemasks were grabbed.

Both guys were ejected on Sunday. That wasn’t enough for the NFL. The league suspended Crabtree and Talib two games without pay for the altercation.

Crabtree will appeal the suspension, a league source said.

Player and team will be punished serverely if he serves the full term.

The Raiders wouldn’t have their most reliable receiver next week against the New York Giants or in a Dec. 10 contest at AFC-West leading Kansas City. Both are must-win games as the Raiders attempt a late-season playoff push. His absence would be magnified if Amari Cooper can’t clear the concussion protocol and rebound from a ankle injury posthaste.

Crabtree will lose significant funds during a suspension without pay. He’ll forfeit $735,294 before taxes in base salary if he’s gone two games, $367,647 if he only misses one. Those totals don’t include per-game roster bonuses which, per overthecap.com, total $31,250 a game.

That’s a hefty sum to be sure.

Head coach Jack Del Rio said before punishment was levied that Crabtree didn’t deserve further punishment. He reiterated that stance on social media Monday night.

“Hard to understand the reasoning for this judgementbased on most recent ruling w/altercation,” Del Rio wrote on Twitter. “See WR Cin and DB Jak = 0 games suspended.”

Del Rio is referring to Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green and Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who were only fined after a Nov. 5 altercation where Green choked his foil and punches were thrown.

That will certainly be addressed in Crabtree’s appeal. So will the fact Crabtree already missed most of one game. A two-game suspension would essentially be three games out. There’s no precedent for that.

That NFL was bothered by this feud’s history, though it didn’t penalize, suspend or fine Talib for the original chain-ripping incident.

The league came down hard this time, as NFL VP of football operations Jon Runyan expressed in letters written to both players.

“Such actions have no place in this game,” he said, “engender ill will between teams, and lead to further confrontations.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Tune into Scott Bair's Raiders Update on Tuesday at 3pm streaming live on Facebook and NBCSportsBayArea.com.

Raiders camp report: Rookie DTs Hurst, Hall proving disruptive up front

Raiders camp report: Rookie DTs Hurst, Hall proving disruptive up front

NAPA – P.J. Hall created pressure in the Raiders’ offensive backfield during Tuesday morning’s practice, with Maurice Hurst collapsing in from his left flank.

Jon Gruden was pleased. He singled out both rookie defensive tackles after the play, praising their hustle in making life difficult up front.

Hurst and Hall found a spring in their step, but tried to avoid overt signs of excitement. They simply slapped five and went back to work.

The pair played well in the preseason opener against Detroit. Hall had a sack, a batted pass. Hurst had two quarterback hits.

“First play P.J. came in, he got a sack. He batted a ball down, so he was disruptive,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “I thought Maurice had some really good rushes. He didn’t get a sack, but he got home. Yeah, I was pleased with it. I think it’s an area that we’ve gone out to try to improve and we have a long way to go. But, there were some good signs.”

Both guys made an impact, which fits well with how they practice.

Gruden knows Hurst and Hall could be regular fixtures in the defensive line rotation and wants them ready to go for the regular season, so he’ll continue to push and prod and ask for better.

Hall and Hurst enjoy the high expectations, and relish the opportunity to go through the rookie experience with another talented lineman.

“It's awesome,” Hurst said after the Lions game. “There's not a better way to have it, having another guy out there in the same position as you. Getting to go through growing pains together."

Calhoun pushing for a spot?

Shilique Calhoun showed well in the Lions game and continues to create pressure up front, giving the Raiders another option when looking for depth rushing off the edge. He was an afterthought last year, released before the regular season and then added to the practice squad after being selected in 2016’s third round. He has had a resurgence of sorts under Gruden’s staff, but has to improve throughout the preseason to earn a roster spot.

“We’re just looking for more consistency and more out of him,” Gruden said. “He’s a guy that has had an interesting career here. He’s been on the practice squad, he’s been brought back, he’s paid the price in the offseason, but he’s on our radar now.”

Injury update

Cornerback Daryl Worley didn’t practice the day after a random collision with fellow cover man Rashaan Melvin. His injury status is uncertain.

Receiver Martavis Bryant remains out with headaches. Receiver Seth Roberts was also out, and has been since before the preseason game. Safety Marcus Gilchrist (foot) and offensive linemen Jordan Simmons and Breno Giacomini remained out of practice.

Jon Feliciano left practice early for an unknown cause.

Safety Obi Melifonwu has been out a week now, and The Athletic reports he will see a specialist to further evaluate his health and a possible to link to hip surgery he had last season.

Donald Penn was activated off the physically unable to perform list, but practiced a lot for his first session back. He had good moments and bad at right tackle, a new position for him.

Donald Penn in right frame of mind to tackle position switch: 'I just want to win'

Donald Penn in right frame of mind to tackle position switch: 'I just want to win'

NAPA – Donald Penn had played 24 snaps at right tackle in 12 NFL seasons. That came in a pinch, when injuries to Menelik Watson and Vadal Alexander in the 2016 regular-season opener at New Orleans left the Raiders without someone to man the post.

Kelechi Osemele was able to make a move to left tackle, but not across the line. Penn made a sacrifice and moved right. That’s no easy switch, especially on the fly.

It proved successful. The Raiders won with a late offensive flurry made possible by solid line play. The switch, however, was temporary.

Penn went back to his natural spot, and completed a career year that earned a Pro Bowl honor. He got another one last season, but the Raiders still looked toward the future in the NFL draft.

Makes sense. Penn is 35, and doesn’t plan to play much longer.

He’s also rebounding from Lisfranc foot surgery last December. Rehab kept him on the physically unable to perform list until Tuesday morning, when he was able to practice and…play right tackle.

Penn said the prospect was broached during talks to restructure his contract – a new deal was done Monday evening -- but the Raiders formally asked him to play on the right before Tuesday’s practice.

“I told them I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win,” Penn said. “If you guys feel like this is going to be in the best interest of the team, I’ll do it. Today it felt very awkward and rusty, but I need time to develop. I don’t know if that’s going to be a permanent thing or not yet, but it is something we’re testing out. I told them I’m all for it.”

The transition will have some hiccups. Footwork that’s so natural from the left is now backwards. He has to de-program certain instincts including, it seems, where to stand in the huddle.

“I was standing by (left guard Kelechi Osemele) in the huddle and he was like, ‘Hey bro.’ and I was like, ‘Oh (shoot), let me go over here,’” Penn said. “It’s little things like that. One time I got in my left-handed stance on accident, and I actually had to switch real fast.

“I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s tough. One thing that I’ve been, I’ve been a good athlete. I’m a good athlete, so I think me being athletic can make that transition a little easier and smooth. I don’t know if it’s going to be permanent or not, but we have a good thing going here. I just want to help us win. I’m not playing too much longer. I just want to win. If this is going to help us win, I’m all in for it. I just want to win.”

Offensive line play will be integral to winning efforts. The Raiders have issues at offensive tackle, especially on the right. Breno Giacomini has missed most of camp with a knee injury. A bum ankle has kept third-round rookie Brandon Parker out of the mix until recently. David Sharpe is in the mix, but must be more consistent to be counted on.

Miller played on the right at UCLA but the results weren’t always great and coaches seem set on him playing left tackle. That left Penn to consider a switch that could help strengthen the line.

It won’t be easy, but Penn’s going to give it a shot. He’s learning a new position while mastering Jon Grduen’s often complex scheme – Penn only participated in walk-throughs and individual drills during the offseason program – and finding true football shape.

Penn’s at his playing weight and in solid cardiovascular condition. He’s working hard to master the scheme and the variables within in it.

Penn’s open to counsel Miller, as he has during downtimes in practice and the preseason opener.

"When I was coming up, I had some good vets that did the same to me,” Penn said. “I’m not stupid, I’m not dumb. I’m 35 years old. I don’t want to play football too much longer myself. I understand what’s going on here. I’m just trying to help as much as possible because when I do leave here, I’m going to leave friends here. Me and Kolton, we’re developing a good friendship. I want to have him ready so when he goes out there he can succeed. It’s not like I’m over here jealous or mad. I’m trying to help the kid out so the kid can be as good as possible because it’s going to help us out as a team.”

Penn has been healthy most of career. The 2017 finale was the only regular-season game he has missed in a dozen years. Being a step removed from the practice grind tested his patience, especially when a return got closer and closer. While Tuesday’s story focused on a possible position switch, Penn was just happy to be practicing again.

“I had a lot of down days where I had to pick myself up and go,” Penn said. “This was my first injury and it was a major one. … It was tough, and I just kept fighting. I had a great support system. Good coaching staff. One thing I do like about them, they were upfront with me. They told me a lot of stuff. They weren’t trying to hide stuff. They’ve been like that ever since they got here, so I can really respect that, especially being an older veteran guy. So I knew what the plan was. I knew what direction they were going in with me and other things.

“The rehab process was hard. I started 170 straight games until this. It was the first time missing all of this time. It was very hard. I’m happy this is behind me.”