Raiders camp report: Peyton Manning joins Gruden, Carr for practice day

Raiders camp report: Peyton Manning joins Gruden, Carr for practice day

NAPA – The Raiders had an extra guy in their Thursday morning quarterback meeting.

Derek Carr, EJ Manuel and Connor Cook were the usual suspects. Peyton Manning was the new kid.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback, commonly considered among the best passers of all time, joined Raiders work as Jon Gruden’s guest.

The pair have known each other a long time now, so Manning felt comfortable asking to come on in. He had a speaking engagement in San Francisco Friday and was looking for a football fix. Gruden obviously encouraged the visit, had Manning speak to the team, join a meeting and watch practice from the field.

“I’m not a coach, but I enjoy sitting in meetings,” Manning said after Thursday’s practice. “If they have a question about a no huddle offense or calling audibles, I’ll answer as best I can. You’re always paying it forward, but I let them approach me first.”

Carr took full advantage of the resource.

“Absolutely. Peyton is one of my favorite all time,” Carr said. “He’s one of the best to ever play the game. Just to pick his mind, see some things that we think the same on, see some things that he’s seen over the years that he can add to help me and my preparation and whatever we’re doing on the field. I took full advantage of today, after whatever drill I would go, ‘Hey, how was communication? How was execution?’ And he’d give us feedback. To have that from someone like Peyton, I think that’s kind of invaluable.”

Manning and Carr share an insatiable work ethic and commitment to the craft. Add Gruden to that group. The football junkie became fast friends with Manning during his time as a broadcaster. They would meet at Manning’s house before Gruden broadcast one of his games, and frequently met up during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

He could tell even years ago that Gruden would return to coaching. It was a calling, and Gruden couldn’t stay out forever.

“Being a football junkie, Jon and I speak the same language,” Manning said. “I know he’s happy, and I think it’s good for football that he’s back in the game.”

Woodson likes Gruden 2.0

Manning wasn't the only legendary former player in attendance Thursday. Charles Woodson was in Napa promoting his wines, so he stopped by to see Gruden, Raiders owner Mark Davis and Manning.

He was asked about Gruden and noticeable differences between this camp and those when he played under the coach. One thing stood out that showed Gruden’s hip with the young kids.

“Everybody’s talking about Gruden being out of the game, out of touch,” Woodson said. “Actually, he’s not. He has a DJ out here at practice. I think he’s fitting right in.”

Many happy returns (to practice)

Several ailing Raiders returned to practice on Thursday. Running back Jalen Richard (calf), receiver Martavis Bryant (illness), tight end Derek Carrier and defensive end Fadol Brown returned to practice after brief stints on the shelf.

Gareon Conley (hip) and offensive tackle Brandon Parker (undisclosed) remained out, joining PUP designees Donald Penn (foot) and Eddie Vanderdoes (knee) working on the side.

Erik Harris broke a finger on Wednesday but practiced fully with the injury.

Right guard Gabe Jackson left practice early, though it’s uncertain why he did. No coaches were available to the press on Thursday.

This ‘n that

Rookie receiver Marcell Ateman is adept using his big body to wall off coverage and make catches downfield, as he has done routinely during camp. …Receiver Griff Whalen had a nice one-handed touchdown catch in red-zone passing drills. …Jordy Nelson continues to shine in practice, making a few deep catches – one on a bullet thrown from Derek Carr – with the first unit most every day. …CB Antonio Hamilton had the day’s only turnover, with an interception during a 7-on-7 period. …Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is quietly having a nice camp, and has bullied linemen with pads on. He cleared two guys out to allow an easy Bruce Irvin sack during pass-rush drills.

Jon Gruden insists Raiders 'aren't tanking anything' despite 1-5 start

Jon Gruden insists Raiders 'aren't tanking anything' despite 1-5 start

ALAMEDA – The Raiders are currently in position for a top-5 NFL Draft pick. Starting the season 1-5 will set that up, though the win percentage must stay low all season to secure it.

That is not by design. Head coach Jon Gruden said so directly and with force during a Tuesday press conference following a 27-3 loss to Seattle in London.

That result was the second straight blowout. The L.A. Chargers and then Seahawks dismantled a Raiders seemingly worse as the season’s worn on.

The Raiders face three straight teams after the bye with equal 1-5 records, but there’s no guarantee the Silver and Black can beat any of them. After that Seahawks performance, everything is on the table.

Just because the Raiders might lose doesn’t mean they want to. The topic came seemingly out of the blue, after Gruden was asked about his message to players heading into their bye week.

“I’ll say this, we aren’t tanking anything,” Gruden said. “I hear the hatred out there, some of the rumors that we are tanking it to get a first round pick or a higher pick.

“We are not getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to tank it. Ain’t nobody tanking it. I don’t know who wrote that or who said that or who thinks that, but that isn’t the case here.

“We are going to continue to work hard, continue to build our team and that was part of the message.”

“Tank” is both a literal and figurative four-letter word for coaches and teams, though the practice occurs in professional sports, most notably in the modern NBA and MLB.

The 2018 Raiders are obviously worse after trading Khalil Mack just before the regular season. Gruden is playing rookies especially at a heavy clip, though veteran free agents signed this offseason haven’t panned out so well. There are reports of Amari Cooper sitting on the trading block, though no actions have been taken in that regard.

Injuries have hindered an already thin depth chart, especially along the offensive line. Donald Penn is on injured reserve, Kelechi Osemele has missed two games and Kolton Miller’s playing through a difficult injury.

“We are going to do everything we can on the practice field to improve but it helps when you have healthy bodies,” Gruden said. “It helps when you have healthy lineman, certainly. We will try to get them healthy so we can do that.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden issues stern response to Rashaan Melvin tweets

Raiders coach Jon Gruden issues stern response to Rashaan Melvin tweets

ALAMEDA -- Rashaan Melvin made five consecutive starts this season, playing significant snaps in each of those contests.

Then Raiders coaches told the veteran cornerback Saturday in London that his role would decrease significantly in the next day's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Melvin and Gareon Conley were benched for Daryl Worley and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the new starters played most every snap in the Raiders' 27-3 loss. Melvin was in for seven, only while Rodgers-Cromartie was being examined by trainers, and he gave up a 10-yard touchdown catch in that short span at Wembley Stadium.

Melvin wasn’t happy about the result or the playing time afterward. The well-traveled cornerback also is being asked to use new techniques in coverage and hasn’t adjusted well.

That frustration led to these two tweets.

The posts were well circulated, and eventually brought to Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s attention.

“I haven’t talked to him yet, no. I’m sure I will. I know (defensive coordinator) Paul Guenther did,” Gruden said in a Tuesday press conference. “I heard there was a Twitter report out there. Melvin is on his seventh team, I think. He’s had different techniques. Maybe he’s confused, I don’t know. I’ll talk to him.

"But he has to play better. He’s in a competitive situation. Perhaps he’s frustrated, and I can’t blame him.”

Melvin’s frustration is clear. He declined comment earlier Tuesday, before Gruden spoke with the press, but he entered this season with high hopes.

He wanted to inarguably prove himself a No. 1 cornerback, and earn the money associated with such distinction. Melvin believed it might come after a career year in Indianapolis, but free agency wasn't generous. He ended up signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Raiders, hoping a good year would secure the multiyear deal he hoped to get this spring.

Being benched and performing below expectation won’t help Melvin’s pride or his pocketbook. That has caused some frustration vented in public.

Gruden somewhat backed off the hard line later in his press conference, addressing Melvin’s frustration in a more political manner.

“He handled adversity and sometimes in an emotional way. But Melvin is a good kid,” Gruden said. “He’s a good kid. He’s given us some good snaps. He’s just in a competitive situation, and we’re trying to help him improve.”