Raiders in 'wait and see' mode on possible Aldon Smith return

Raiders in 'wait and see' mode on possible Aldon Smith return

ALAMEDA – Aldon Smith was spotted at a Warriors game last week, and told a reporter he expects to be back with the Raiders soon.

That would be a huge boon for the Silver and Black defense to add a top-flight pass rusher down the home stretch.

"I'll be back in two weeks, you can ask me all the questions then," Smith told the Associated Press on Nov. 3.

Whether that timeline’s realistic remains uncertain. Smith applied for reinstatement to the NFL in late October, a requirement after being banished at least one calendar year as a repeat violator of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Smith is eligible for reinstatement on Nov. 17, though NFL commissioner Roger Goodell must approve his application. There is no set timetable for Goodell to meet with Smith or make a final decision.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio can’t have contact with Smith during his suspension – only player engagement director Lamont Winston can have contact with Smith – but he certainly hopes Smith can come back.

“That’s a wait-and-see, hope-for-the-best situations,” Del Rio in his Monday press conference. “The way I’ve thought about it, and I haven’t thought a whole lot about it since, is that let’s let the young man get his life in order first. If he can do that, then we can talk about football. Let’s make sure his life is in order, and I’m sure that’s what the commissioner will do before he decides whether he’s going to reinstate him or not.”

Many fans are salivating over the prospect of adding Aldon Smith and Mario Edwards Jr. – he’s on injured reserve rehabbing a hip injury, but the team expects him to return – to the defensive front posthaste.

Del Rio isn’t focused on possible reinforcements. He’s worried about those currently available and getting them to continue playing better defense.

“We’re not going to wait for that,” Del Rio said. “We have to continue to grow and do the things that have helped us play much better defensively the last several weeks and build on that.”

Gruden, Carr sparring comes from high expectations not being met


Gruden, Carr sparring comes from high expectations not being met

Jon Gruden and Derek Carr disagree. It happens quite often in fact, in meeting rooms and practice fields and, yes, even on the sidelines during a game. Fans got a glimpse during Sunday’s 23-21 victory over Arizona, when cameras caught head coach and quarterback in an heated exchange.

All parties shrugged it off without second thought, other than to insure it didn’t show fractures in their relationship. That last part was probably unnecessary given Gruden’s history of being hard on his quarterbacks and so expressive that the viewing audience knows exactly how he feels.

Gruden has said several times that he has failed if he can’t get Derek Carr going strong. Carr’s 2016 season showed what he’s capable of, though a return to that form has proven elusive save a few flashes.

All the offensive injuries and all the losing haven’t helped, producing more bumps in the road than Gruden or Carr would like. Gruden still believes Carr can produce well in this scheme, and his expectations remain sky high.

“I think he has the ability, I tell him, to complete every pass he throws. I mean that,” Gruden said in his Monday press conference. “He’s got that kind of arm talent and I am going to continue to raise the standards for him. I thought he threw a fly ball (Sunday) to Jalen Richard, I thought it landed out of the end zone and I let him know about it, that he was out of bounds. I just think he’s got as good an arm talent as there is and I want to try and hold him to those standards. I think deep down somewhere, he appreciates that.

“As we continue to get better around him, with our pass protection, if we can ever get some continuity at wide receiver it’d be nice. I think he has got a chance to really be special.”

Gruden insists that his criticism is constructive, even when Chucky comes out to play. That certainly isn’t unique to Carr. Gruden produced colorful sideline discourse with Rich Gannon and Chris Simms and Jeff Garcia and most every other quarterback on his rosters. 

“I’m a big cheerleader sometimes,” Gruden said. “I’m very positive a lot of the time.,” Every once in awhile, I think you have to make your points in some different ways. Sometimes raising your voice… I look ridiculous to some people, but I want urgency. I want to have some urgency to get things right. It doesn’t mean I’m always right, either. Derek pointed that out to me yesterday. So be it.”

Passionate back-and-forth isn’t uncommon. It also isn’t a bad thing. It might even be good when Carr’s fires back, as someone who is putting his stamp on how Gruden’s scheme gets run. Carr generally listens and responds to commands from a superior officer, but definitely has a voice in what’s happening with the offense. Frustrations should boil over for a team that has performed so poor, with just two wins on the season that have both come down to the wire. Volume increases when that happens.

“I don’t have a ‘no yelling’ sign on the sideline,” Gruden said. “Things happen. We get excited down there. I get excited when we get a first down. Get excited when you work on something all week and it doesn’t work out. I get excited when he makes big plays, too. that’s just part of football. I think cameras can catch things sometimes that maybe make things look a little bit peculiar, but that happens.”

Raiders notes: Keon Hatcher signed to replace injured Brandon LaFell

Raiders notes: Keon Hatcher signed to replace injured Brandon LaFell

ALAMEDA – Raiders coach Jon Gruden joked he might’ve gotten kicked out of the airplane home from Seattle if he decided to cut wide receiver Keon Hatcher after scoring three touchdowns in a preseason game against the Seahawks.

He didn’t do it right away, but it didn’t take long for Hatcher to get the axe. It formlly swung on Sept. 12 -- Hatcher was notified the night before -- when the Raiders brought back Martavis Bryant.

The Arkansas alum bounced around some after that, and spent the last six weeks on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad.

The Raiders signed him off of it Monday morning, and put him right back on their active roster. The move was required with Brandon LaFell officially placed on injured reserve.

Hatcher’s familiarity with this offense will help him integrate quickly. He’s expected to hit the ground running, and play next week against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I know the playbook inside out,” Hatcher said. “I know every [receiver] position. I think I’ll be out there pretty quick.”

Hatcher had a strong preseason, but was a surprise member of the 53-man roster. There are several reasons to like his game: Namely, he has great speed and is a smooth route-runner with solid hands.

The 24-year-old is coming in to help after LaFell tore his Achilles in the third quarter of Sunday’s 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. LaFell is a pro’s pro, and signed early this season as a reserve before moving into a larger role following the Amari Cooper trade.

He was on a one-year deal and faces a long recovery, so it’s likely he has played his last down as a Raider.

“He was a good player,” Gruden said. “He beat [top-flight Cardinals cornerback] Patrick Peterson on a touchdown pass yesterday. Went up and got a huge third-down conversion. Touchdown against the Colts. He did a lot of things for us. He played multiple positions. We’re going to miss him. He’s going to be a hard guy to replace.”

Ellis on the way back

The Raiders plan to designate defensive tackle Justin Ellis to return from injured reserve this week. Ellis is expected to practice starting Wednesday, and he would be eligible to play Baltimore if he’s physically ready to go.

That determination will be made later in the week, though the Raiders have an open roster spot should they want to add him. One was created when the team waived Saeed Blacknall Monday afternoon. It’s possible Blacknall will return to the Raiders' practice squad if he clears waivers.

The Raiders could use some help against the run, where they have struggled mightily. Ellis is a nose tackle in the base defense, primarily where Johnathan Hankins has played. Hankins hasn’t been bad, but adding another big body in the middle will be a plus the rest of the season.

Jordy Nelson nearing return

Gruden said there was a chance receiver Jordy Nelson could start practicing this week, after he missed Sunday's game with a bone bruise centered on his knee.

“I visited with Jordy a little bit last night on the airplane,” Gruden said. “I thought he ran pretty good this morning. He’s got a chance. It’s important to him, I think he wants to come back and play no doubt, and he’s getting close to doing that.”

It’s somewhat unusual for players ruled out during the week to make road trips, but Nelson came to Arizona ro aid a young group of wideouts playing much larger roles.

“I asked Jordy if he wanted to stay in Oakland and get extra treatment,” Gruden said. “He said, ‘heck no, I want to come to the game.’ It’s just that kind of attitude we need right now on this team. A veteran presence, being with the receivers, being with Derek on the sideline. It’s a good group of guys, and he is at the head of the list. He’s really a special person to give himself to the team like he has.”