Raiders

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Raiders legend Tom Flores anxious for answer

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AP

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Raiders legend Tom Flores anxious for answer

Tom Flores has the best kind of Super Bowl plans. The former Raiders quarterback, offensive coordinator and head coach will be in Atlanta before that game, as guest of honor.

Flores was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday afternoon for the first time in his 24 years of eligibility, a major feat for someone waiting so long without validation for a career well spent.

The NFL’s first Latino head coach, who won two Super Bowls as a head coach and another as a coordinator, was never even a semifinalist before this induction cycle.

Now he’s on the cusp of something truly special.

“It was exciting to make the semifinals, but I knew how rare it was to make the final 15. This is much bigger,” Flores said Thursday night in a phone interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’m going to be in Atlanta for the Super Bowl when they knock on doors. I’m probably going to be biting my fingernails off, if I have any by then.

"It’s another step, and a great honor. It’s about as big as it can get in my lifetime, if I can accomplish this while I’m still around and be able to celebrate with my friends and family, it will be monumental for me. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am to be in this position.”

There is one complication he expressed while speaking with Hall of Fame president David Baker Thursday night.

“I am going to enjoy this month,” Flores said. “It’s going to drive me crazy waiting so long.”

The Hall of Fame can only elect a maximum of five of the 15 modern-era finalists, and there’s a large contingent of worthy candidates this year. There’s a buzz around Flores this year, and the selection committee will discuss him openly on the eve of the Super Bowl.

It took a long time to make it this far, but Flores isn’t bitter about the wait. He understood that Al Davis was the star of the show, and was okay with that. It is gratifying, however, to see his career honored in such a way.

“I appreciate the committee acknowledging that part of my career and how important it is and how hard it is,” Flores said. “This is a tough business. I’m not a loud guy. I didn’t scream and yell on the sidelines. I didn’t create much of a stir. I was kind of boring, and I also worked for Al Davis.

"He got all the accolades, and I understood that. He understood that. And he said, ‘I’m the last guy who should push for you, because nobody will listen to me.’"

Raiders, Jon Gruden coaching staff: Senior Bowl 'great tool' for team

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USATSI

Raiders, Jon Gruden coaching staff: Senior Bowl 'great tool' for team

MOBILE, Ala. – The Senior Bowl has NFL coaching staffs run the annual college All-Star Game and NFL draft showcase. They’re typically offered to the worst team from each conference with a returning coach, and the Raiders fit that bill.

The invite wasn’t accepting begrudgingly, out of obligation. Head coach Jon Gruden jumped at the opportunity. The Raiders wanted to do it.

The Silver and Black coaching staff will lead the North squad during the practice week and in Saturday’s game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“We are really excited,” Gruden said. “It will be the fourth time that I have done it. We have to do a good job in this draft and the best way to do it is to be as close as possible to the players."

The experience allows Raiders coaches to get their hands on invited prospects and see how they meet, absorb information and perform in practice against top competition looking to boost draft stock.

It will be a valuable evaluation tool heading into a pivotal NFL draft, one that could energize Gruden’s return to the Raiders.

While there isn’t a player here expected to be a Raiders target at No. 4 overall – Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen would’ve been the only one and he backed out of a commitment to play – there’s quality at several positions of need that could be options when the Raiders select early at Nos. 24, 27 and 35 overall and further down the NFL draft.

The Raiders will get to know these Senior Bowl players as well or better than any prospects in the NFL draft. Most teams get to meet with these guys and watch them practice. The Raiders will get to work with the North squad, with the 49ers running the South.

“When you get to the Senior Bowl and you get the access to these kids and the opportunity to see both teams practice, how they practice, how they retain information, how they process information, both on an install basis and mechanics on the field,” general manager Mike Mayock said. “I think it’s just a huge advantage.”

A unique week’s interaction will draw the Raiders to certain players. It will also push them away from others.

“If we can eliminate two or three players by coaching the Senior Bowl,” Gruden said, “sometimes that is just as important as finding two or three guys that you really want.”

The importance of the Raiders’ three 2019 first-round picks can’t be oversold. They will be vital in this roster rebuild, and nailing two or all three could expedite an often painful reconstruction process.

Gruden hopes it helps find prospects and sell the coaching staff to college free agents and anyone watching this week’s work.

“We have three picks in the first round,” We also pick in every other round and we also have the potential to add players after the draft. It will give our coaches, I think, a chance to go to Mobile in front of the entire NFL and show what kind of coaching staff we have - show the energy and enthusiasm that we have as a staff. We are going to sell ourselves to the players.”

[RELATED: Raiders should be watching safeties at Senior Bowl]

The Raiders are happy to interrupt the offseason for this experience, which Gruden has done three times before. He led a Senior Bowl squad twice while with Tampa Bay and once in his previous stint in Oakland, back in 1999.

“The last time I coached the Senior Bowl as the head coach of the Raiders, we drafted Eric Barton and Rod Coleman,” Gruden said. “It was a great tool for us, in Tampa and in Oakland.”

Raiders playing Bears in London means no return of the (Khalil) Mack

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USATSI

Raiders playing Bears in London means no return of the (Khalil) Mack

MOBILE, Ala. – The Raiders have been shipping home games abroad for years now.

The football people don’t love it. Jon Gruden’s a homebody, and prefers to stay put whenever possible. Jack Del Rio didn’t like it, either. Adding another travel date to the schedule makes a season harder. There’s no arguing that.

It is unofficially part of the team’s relocation efforts, conceding to play an extra game away from the East Bay and wherever the Raiders eventually call home in 2019.

This will mark the fourth straight season the Raiders have hosted an international game, and the fifth time in the last six years.

They’ll be going to London this time. The opponent was no surprise.

The Raiders will play the Chicago Bears in London, the NFL announced Monday morning. The exact date and venue will be announced when the schedule’s released this spring.

Playing the Bears far away from home prevents the return of Khalil Mack. Gruden traded the All-Pro edge rusher to Chicago on Sept. 1 for a compensation package that included two first round picks, an unpopular move that signaled the start of a complete roster rebuild.

Moving this game to London avoids the possibility of him wreaking havoc against his old team, pressuring good friend and former teammate Derek Carr in front of a home crowd that loved him so much.

Mack was immensely popular in Oakland and across the Bay Area, a market the Raiders could well play in despite not having a lease to play anywhere in 2019.

Mack’s return would’ve been a huge storyline, and may well have been a primetime offering. Moving the game to London eliminates that prospect as well, given the time difference between England and the United States.

Even still the focus will be on Mack playing the Raiders and a way-to-early progress report on the No. 24 overall NFL draft pick, who will be the first tangible part of the Raiders return in the Khalil Mack trade.

Changing the venue and keeping this an early game should dampen national focus and local passion for this one.

The Raiders and Bears matchup is part of a four-game series in London that also features Tampa Bay-Carolina, Houston-Jacksonville and L.A. Rams-Cincinnati. The L.A. Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs will play in Mexico City next season.

As it was in 2018, the Raiders, Rams and Chargers, teams playing in temporary venues while their stadia are being built, will all host games abroad.