Raiders

Raiders give first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram prestigious No. 24

Raiders give first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram prestigious No. 24

ALAMEDA -- Raiders coach Jon Gruden considers Johnathan Abram a throwback safety. The Raiders’ final first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is a thumper in every sense, a tone-etter in the secondary who is unafraid of mixing it up near the line of scrimmage.

“Abram belongs in 1978, ‘79, ’80,” Gruden said. “I’m going to try to get him to wear No. 32 or 43. He’s like one of our old school safeties.”

Gruden gave him an important number in Raiders lore. Abram toured the Raiders locker room Friday before his introductory press conference with fellow first-rounders Josh Jacobs and Clelin Ferrell and found this waiting for him.

The No. 24 was worn proudly by Fred Williamson in the early 1960s. Willie Brown really made it famous en route to the Pro Football of Fame. Charles Woodson took the mantle in two stints in Silver and Black, and wore it with the Raiders during a career worthy of a gold jacket. Marshawn Lynch wore it last, but it’s up for grabs with him expected to retire.

Having Gruden bestow No. 24 meant a ton to the young safety.

“That means the world to me,” Abram said in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday. “I know I have big shoes to fill. There have been a lot a greats wearing that number like Charles Woodson and even Marshawn Lynch. He’s going down as one of the greatest running backs to ever play.

“The standard has been set. I have to uphold that standard.”

Woodson even reached out to Abram after he was selected.

Abram developed a kinship with Gruden at the Senior Bowl. Abram was assigned to the South squad run by the 49ers, but found himself gravitating towards the Raiders' head coach.

“I couldn’t get rid of the kid,” Gruden said. “He loves football, he’s a coach on the field, he’s a magnetic personality. And he does have length and size to potentially match up with some of the great jokers as I call them that detach tight ends and cause problems. And he’s going to have his hands full.”

[RELATED: Grades for Raiders' three first-round picks in NFL draft]

Abram will be given a huge responsibility early, and will be counted on as a leader in the future. Gruden sent a message by giving him No. 24, which has already motivated Abram upon joining the Silver and Black.

“A coach like him gets you going and only makes you better,” Abram said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s intense, but you know you’re going to come in every day and get something accomplished.

“… He gets you so hyped when you’re with him. When Gruden gets to talking, you feel like you can run through a brick wall. He’s a football guy, a football junkie. I love being around a guy like that.”

Damien Woody applauds Raiders for taking rookie class to Google campus

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AP

Damien Woody applauds Raiders for taking rookie class to Google campus

When you were young, class field trips usually consisted of going to a water park, the beach, a museum or maybe even a baseball game.

For 23 member of the Oakland Raiders, they got a field trip to the Google campus in Mountain View on Friday.

Lucky guys.

“You see Google and you bring it up on the computer, and you’re like, ‘All right, that’s Google,’ ” fifth-round draft pick Hunter Renfrow told ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. “But you don’t realize there are actual bodies, there’s buildings, there’s people that work there. It’s not putting a face to name, but a building to a website, so that was cool."

The topic of the Raiders' Google campus tour came up during a recent episode of ESPN's "NFL Live," and former NFL offensive lineman Damien Woody liked the idea.

"Back in the day, it was frowned upon for players to look at other interests outside the game because a lot of people thought of it as a 'distraction,' " Woody said. "But I think what you're saying now from the modern-day player, these guys are thinking ahead. The average career is three years, or whatever it is. These guys are smarter, they're more informed, they're thinking about life after football.

"So, I applaud the Oakland Raiders for bringing these rookies into a different environment and showing them there are things outside of football as well."

[RELATED: Abram keeping ears, eyes open]

After back-to-back disappointing seasons, the Raiders are trying to change the culture in Oakland, so a trip to see how one of the most successful companies in the world operates seems like a great idea.

Johnathan Abram keeping ears, eyes open while learning Raiders way

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AP

Johnathan Abram keeping ears, eyes open while learning Raiders way

Johnathan Abram spent his first Raiders offseason program trying to listen, absorb and process as much as humanly possible. Picking up a somewhat complex defensive scheme would help him hit the ground running when training camp begins this summer.

The first-round safety is active in meetings, vocal in practices and was confident helping run the first unit in later OTAs and minicamp. All that has helped him put a solid foot forward.

“What I’m really impressed by is just how he has been able to get this defense down,” fellow safety Karl Joseph said. “For a young guy to come in and be able to understand all the stuff and rules in this defense, that’s pretty impressive. He’s been doing a great job.”

Abram will be the first to admit he hasn’t been perfect in this offseason. That’s odd coming from someone exuding confidence and a proportionate amount of swagger, but the Mississippi State alum is not afraid to be wrong. That, in itself, is an asset.

“I have a lot to learn,” Abram said. “I’m more so worried about what to expect from offenses. I do a very great job of going home, watching film, studying, I take a lot of mental reps. I put myself out there in meetings, making calls and if I’m wrong, then I’m wrong and coach will correct me as we go through it.”

Abram also is aware of a real possibility he’ll start right away. That’s no easy task for a rookie, even someone drafted as high as No. 27 overall. The Raiders have Erik Harris waiting in the wings, and Lamarcus Joyner can rotate in at safety after focusing on slot cornerback during the offseason program.

Abram has listened closely to Joyner, a player he studied in college and loves playing with as a professional even if they haven’t been next to each other at safety. He hangs on Joyner’s words in practice and meetings, and even pays attention to what the veteran says in public.

“Lamarcus can pretty much do it all,” Abram said. “He does a great job mentoring me, making sure I keep my feet where I am. I heard him say that once in the press conference over here and that’s the one thing I have been focusing on – just being where I’m at every single day and not looking so far ahead.”

The offseason program and the extra week of rookie orientation now are over, meaning players are free to relax until training camp starts for rookies first and then the full squad in late July.

[RELATED: On right life path, Raiders' Waller ready for breakout year]

Abram doesn’t plan on taking much time off, despite spending most of the offseason preparing for the NFL draft.

“I’m not nearly where I need to be, so I want to make sure I can try and get as close as I can going into training camp and be in the best shape possible,” Abram said. “Just making sure I’m super crisp with the playbook. That’s about it, just training.”