Raiders, Maurice Hurst ready to move beyond DT's heart condition


Raiders, Maurice Hurst ready to move beyond DT's heart condition

ALAMEDA – Maurice Hurst spent his career at University of Michigan dominating from the defensive interior, but his pre-NFL-draft experience focused on something else entirely.

A heart condition Hurst already knew about got him sent home from the NFL scouting combine and caused a free fall down the draft that a Raiders fifth round pick finally stopped.

General manager Reggie McKenzie was queried about it after the draft, revealing Hurst will have annual check-ups to ensure the dynamic defensive tackle remains good to go.

Hurst was asked about it during a conference call shortly after being selected No. 140 overall.

He’s hoping those days are done. The Raiders have cleared him to play. Michigan and Harvard have, too. Hurst has said several times that everything is fine from his perspective.

He’d rather not repeat himself, and focus instead on football tasks ahead.

“(I’m) just trying to get all of that stuff behind me, try to get people to stop talking about it,” Hurst said. “You know, some sort of issue or all of those kinds of things – just try to move past that and focus on playing football and just having fun out there.”

Gruden isn’t concerned about Hurst’s health, either, and is frankly tired of the topic.

“I’m not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst,” Gruden said. “I realize there are a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources that have an opinion on why we shouldn’t have drafted him.

“This man played at Michigan. I know the head coach there. They’ve looked after him carefully. We’re happy to have him in any round. I’m excited for him. He’s an Oakland Raider and a great kid. I hope you just judge him on the field. He has been cleared medically, and I’ll just leave it at that. He’s a fine football player and a great young man who is excited to be here.”

Hurst is widely considered this draft’s finest inside pass rusher and an excellent run stopper with high football IQ. If Hurst can compete against NFL talent, he’s exactly what the Raiders need from a three technique, and could be an immediate impact player as a rookie.

Hurst’s immediate focus was on learning the Raiders routine and the team’s history after leaving the tradition-rich Wolverines.

“I mean it’s exciting,” Hurst said. “Spending five years at Michigan, I’ve never really put on another helmet, but getting to be a part of a team with so much tradition sort of like the Wolverines, it’s great. Just to think about the players that played before you and get to represent them, represent the greats that have made this place what it is.”

Other notes from rookie minicamp:

-- Gruden said his first five picks didn’t participate in a full rookie minicamp practice. Those guys participated in individual drills and then eased off, as coaches chose to introduce them to the team’s strength program, trainers and staff. The goal is to get them ready for practices with veterans present quickly.

-- Rookies were also given information on the Raiders rich history, something important to Gruden and staff.

-- First-round pick Kolton Miller will start working on at left tackle, while third-round pick Brandon Parker will start working on the right, though Gruden said that could change down the line.

-- Undrafted kicker Eddy Pineiro, who will offer incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio still competition this offseason, was allowed to skip rookie minicamp to participate in the University of Florida’s commencement ceremony.

-- Gruden said the Raiders are trying to arrange joint practices with another team this preseason, but it hasn’t been solidified yet.

-- WR Ryan Switzer has impressed since being acquired from Dallas in trade. He’ll compete for both return jobs, and Gruden said he has “nasty quickness” from the slot.

-- Gruden said Gareon Conley is close to full clearance after having shin surgery last winter.

“He participated in the veteran minicamp in the walk-throughs and he’s running with our defensive backs out here on the field,” Gruden said. “He’s extremely close to get the green light. We’re just being smart with him.”

-- Fourth-round CB Nick Nelson watched practice while rehabbing from meniscus surgery. Gruden said he’s three-to-four weeks away from being cleared, and should be ready for training camp.

Jon Gruden disappointed by Khalil Mack's absence, Raiders not distracted

Jon Gruden disappointed by Khalil Mack's absence, Raiders not distracted

The Raiders spent three calendar weeks training in wine country. Khalil Mack wasn’t there a single second.

The Raiders edge rusher is withholding services waiting for a massive, long-term contract extension. He doesn’t have one. Not yet, anyway.

That’ why he wasn’t in Napa when veterans reported July 26 and wasn’t there Thursday when camp formally closed.

Mack’s hold out has captured nationally on sports talk on several mediums – they just love the drama – but Gruden insists Mack’s absence been a distraction. But…

“It has obviously, for me, been disappointing,” Gruden said Wednesday. “You want to have your best player here. This guy is really a great guy, too. I’m disappointed we don’t have him here.

“We’re going to try to get him here as soon as we can. In the time being, you got to move on. You’ve got to get up and go to work. That’s one thing I’m very proud of what we’ve done here.”

The Raiders hope Mack reports soon, and nothing has changed regarding their desire to sign him to a long-term contract extension they know won’t be cheap.

And, no, they don’t currently have plans to trade Mack.

Mack’s an elite edge rusher, excellent against the run, remains in impeccable and never, ever gets in trouble. He’s the type of player teams want to pay, especially those ready to enter a new market.

The Raiders understand that and want Mack with the team posthaste.

"Mack's the best player coming off the edge in football. That's our opinion,” Gruden said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. "We're determined to find a way to get him in here, get him a contract, and get on with life.

“This is a negotiation. Joel Segal is Khalil’s agent. They’ve got their plan. General manager Reggie McKenzie and the people negotiating on our end have a plan. I’m coaching the team. At this time, he’s not here, and we have to focus on what we can control, and that’s just working.”

Mack is currently under contract, set to make $13,846 million on a fifth-year team option of his rookie contract applicable only to first-round picks.

Derek Carr has shown mastery of Jon Gruden’s scheme in short time

Derek Carr has shown mastery of Jon Gruden’s scheme in short time

Jon Gruden heaps responsibility on his quarterback. That’s true of most NFL schemes, but the Raiders head coach challenges his signal callers know all the terminology and concepts and adjustments and variables built into most every play.

He tests them constantly, changing defensive looks in practice, forcing quarterbacks to recall details on call in front of team meetings. It’s hard to handle by design.

Few can handle it well. Rich Gannon was one. Derek Carr is another.

The Raiders current franchise quarterback’s comprehension rate and recall under pressure has been welcome, but his insatiable desire for more might impress Gruden most.

“I think he’s one of the best, in terms of processing information,” Gruden said. “I think he craves new things. He wants more… ‘What do we have today? What are we doing today? What’s new? What do we got?’ He has a photographic memory. It comes so easy to him. He’s got the offense mastered more than I do.”

That last part’s hyperbole, but his exaggeration’s meant to make a point. Carr is pushing hard to get Gruden’s scheme down cold and apply its rules like his coach would.

Carr’s mastery is evident in practice, where he seems in complete control of the first unit. That has combined with his arm strength, quick release and accuracy that gives many confidence Carr will thrive this regular season and beyond working with Gruden. It might not have come quite so easy.

“There’s a lot of hard work for sure, a lot of hours spent trying to master it,” Carr said. “You think like he thinks, which has been fun and interesting for me to learn.

“In order to do that, the time you have to put in is a lot. It’s a lot. And both of us worked really hard on getting on the same page. I think we’re always going to continue to grow together and think about things differently and then figure it out. The main thing is when we hit the field, that’s us, that’s what he and I are putting on the field, the product at the same time. We didn’t want it to look like we’ve only been together for a short period of time. We wanted it to look like these guys have been around each other, it seems, like forever.”

Carr and Gruden have come a long way in a relatively short time. Learning a system like this takes time and includes several stages, starting with root concepts and terminology. The quarterback said the early days were spent cramming for a test, memorizing a ton early on. Gruden is constantly teaching new things, but continues to review and repeat to help quarterbacks learn.

“He does a great job, his teaching, progression for quarterbacks, the system, every single day he’ll hit on the new things but he’ll always remind you of what we did the past couple days,” Carr said. “So, you’re hitting it about seven to eight times before you really move on, to where it really becomes repetition and you become used to it.

“It has been a lot of work to get to the point to where it’s not just, ‘yeah, I memorized something on a paper.’ Well, I have to memorized every detail of it, and then know it inside and out and still know the defense inside and out and how do we beat it, how do we get to certain things? Initially, it was just, ‘what can I remember?’ As you continue to reference it and go back over it, it just becomes who we are.”