DENVER – The Oakland Raiders are no more. While there’s offseason work left to be done before moving to Las Vegas for good, the Silver and Black won’t play in Oakland again. Their time representing the East Bay on a football field is over.
While you won’t be able to buy Las Vegas Raiders gear right away – that could come after the Super Bowl or at the start of the league year – this team is leaving its native land.
There are mixed emotions felt by players after Sunday’s regular-season finale, a 16-15 loss to the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.
“Anytime there’s change, it’s exciting,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “Las Vegas is going to be awesome. The stadium looks awesome, but it does suck that we’re never going to play in Oakland again. We tried to go out and win one for them today, but it just didn’t work out.”
Raiders fans in Oakland remained loyal throughout the three-season transition period where the Silver and Black played in The Town while building a new venue just off the Las Vegas Strip.
That fact wasn’t lost on the players, who enjoyed packed houses while playing at the Coliseum.
“I appreciate their resilience and loyalty of our fans with all the drama about where we’ll be and what’s been going on with us,” tight end Darren Waller said. “The move is probably tugging at their heartstrings a little bit, but they have stuck with us through the wins and the losses. We appreciate the undying support.”
Excitement will be high in early games at Allegiant Stadium, but the Raiders know the novelty will wear off in time. Winning games will help woo a new market stoked about Raiders football being in town.
“We have talked in our building about the future and what that will look like,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We all agree that, when we go to Vegas, we have to win more. It doesn’t really matter what stadium we play in. We won 12 games in a stadium that we’re moving out of. Our players and coaches do a really good job of not caring what’s going on around us. We can all agree that a lot of things happened to us, but we kept our heads down and worked. I can promise you the organization is in great hands.”
Head coach Jon Gruden’s driving the bus on the football side and is working to build a team for sustained success. The rebuild will continue at the Alameda training facility for some time, with the team drafting, signing free agents and conducting their entire offseason program there. Then they’ll have training camp in Napa before moving to their training facility in Henderson, Nev.
It’s scheduled for completion in June but the Raiders football operations staff won’t go there until August. Gruden has some important work to do here if he wants to make the Las Vegas splash the organization craves next season
“I’m always going to be respectful of where we came from,” Gruden said. “Oakland is a meaningful place to me, but I’m here for the Raiders. We’re building our team, as we have been for a while, and we’re making progress. There’s a lot of progress yet to be made, but we have good young players and the heart of a champion. We’re going to have a good draft and we’re going add some free agents and we’re going to get better and better. I believe that.”