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.

Will Jared Cook return to Raiders? Jon Gruden addresses tight end's future


Will Jared Cook return to Raiders? Jon Gruden addresses tight end's future

MOBILE, Ala. — Raiders coach Jon Gruden offered a positive view on the status of tight end Jared Cook who is now a free agent.

“I had a good meeting with Jared before he left,” Gruden said, “and we'll do the best we can to get him back. It will be competitive. I'm sure there are a lot of teams who look at the tape and put him on their wish list.”  

Cook caught a career-high 68 of his 101 targets for 896 yards and six touchdowns. His 67.6 catch percentage was also a career-high. 

Cook recorded four 100-yard games in his 10th season in the league. His 180-yard performance against the Rams in Week 1 broke the franchise record for yards by a tight end in a single game that was previously held by Todd Christensen, who caught 11 passes for 173 yards against the Chargers on Nov. 20, 1986.

Gruden was pleased that Cook will be in playing in the Pro Bowl. He will participate as Travis Kelce’s replacement. 

“Jared made the Pro Bowl, which is great for him,” Gruden said. “We’re really happy about that. I thought he should have gotten in to start with.”  

Former Ravens sixth-round pick Darren Waller could be a possible replacement for Cook. He was signed late in the season off of Baltimore's practice squad and played in the final four games. He caught all six passes thrown his way for 75 yards. 

The Raiders will need to focus on adding a tight end during the offseason through free agency or the draft. The staff’s involvement at the Senior Bowl is one of the opportunities they will need to take advantage of.

Jon Gruden knows firsthand why Saints NFC title loss 'will sting forever'


Jon Gruden knows firsthand why Saints NFC title loss 'will sting forever'

MOBILE, Ala. – Jon Gruden reached out to New Orleans head coach Sean Payton after the Saints lost the NFC championship on Sunday, largely due to a blown no-call on an obvious pass interference violation.

The Raiders head coach knows all too well both Payton and the pain felt after losing a chance to advance in the playoffs due to an officiating mistake.

Gruden was, after all, victimized by the Tuck Rule. The New England Patriots beat the Raiders back in the 2001 AFC divisional round largely because of a call that negated Tom Brady’s lost fumble, which would have essentially secured a Raiders victory.

“That’s one of the reasons Sean and I have talked,” Gruden said Monday during Senior Bowl week. “What do you say to your team? It’s tough. You lose a game like that, it’s tough. It’s tough to lose a game, period. It’s tough that it came down to that.”

Gruden has strong feelings on instant replay, but didn’t want to comment on whether pass interference calls should be reviewable. By rule, the egregious non-call in the L.A. Rams’ victory over the Saints wasn’t allowed to undergo a review.

Payton was despondent after the overtime loss to Los Angeles, saying the NFL told him shortly after the game that pass interference should have been called.

While the Tuck Rule Game happened 17 years ago, Gruden and several Raiders involved in that game are still bothered by the end result. That’s why Gruden believes the Saints might not ever get over such a loss.

“No. I don’t think so,” Gruden said. “If you really want to dwell on it, you won’t ever get over it. It’s the last time that team will ever be together. It will never be the same. Those guys fought long and as hard as they could. It will sting forever.”

Gruden and Payton have discussed the Saints’ situation already, and will again down the road.

“Sean and I worked together a long time ago (in Philadelphia), and I was involved in a playoff game that ended in quite dramatic fashion,” Gruden said. “So is he, now. He and I will have a couple of hot dogs and a couple Cokes and talk about it at some point in the future, I’m sure.”

Gruden isn't the only Raiders still sore over the Tuck Rule Game. Charles Woodson caused the fumble that was negated, and it still bothers him greatly. The Raiders were awesome that year, and had a real chance to win the Super Bowl if his big play had stood as a fumble.