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.