Raiders

Seen and Heard: Raiders' Jon Gruden dials back practice intensity

Seen and Heard: Raiders' Jon Gruden dials back practice intensity

NAPA – The Raiders kept pads off for a second straight day on Sunday, decreasing practice intensity as the team heads into an off day.

Tyrell Williams took it easy in this one. So did Darren Waller, upon return from a shoulder injury. Jalen Richard’s limited with a groin issue, and even Derek Carr decreased his rep count. Waller was extremely limited and Paul Butler remains out, meaning the five-man tight end position is running on fumes.

That led head coach Jon Gruden to dial back original plans in order to keep his team shipshape as it grinds through the middle portions of training camp.

“It’s that time of year where everybody has to step up,” Gruden said. “You have to modify your scripts a little bit when players go down. It’s a challenge, and one of the reasons why we were in shorts today. We have to be careful with the Rams coming in next week.”

The Raiders have an off-day scheduled Monday and will practice Tuesday before hosting two joint practices with the L.A. Rams.

Family day

The Raiders hosted their annual family day on Sunday, inviting loved ones with players and coaches in training camp to experience life in Napa for a day. They had Bay Area staple Kinder’s BBQ cater the event, and brought tables and recreational sports equipment to portions of the practice field for the afternoon.

On-field action

-- Quarterback Nathan Peterman got some first-team reps on Sunday, with Derek Carr taking less reps. The backup quarterback battle is tight, with Peterman and Mike Glennon having both good and bad moments in practice.

-- Punter Johnny Townsend performed better on Sunday than in recent sessions, and was an important counterpunch after A.J. Cole had punted so well in recent periods devoted to him.

[RELATED: Raiders' Derek Carr building Nevada house next door to Jon Gruden]

-- Safety Erik Harris intercepted Glennon near the right sideline and returned it for a touchdown in seven-on-seven drills.

-- Receiver Antonio Brown, tight end Paul Butler and defensive linemen Eddie Vanderdoes, Gabe Wright and Quinton Bell all continued to miss practice with injuries. Bell did some side work with a trainer for the first time with the media present. He should return in a week or so. 

NFL rumors: Raiders rookie Josh Jacobs expected to play vs. Jaguars

NFL rumors: Raiders rookie Josh Jacobs expected to play vs. Jaguars

The Raiders should receive a big boost this Sunday when they suit up for their final game in Oakland. 

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday morning that Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs is expected to return against the Jaguars after missing last week's loss to the Titans with a shoulder injury. 

Jacobs made an impassioned plea to play against Tennessee and teared up when he learned the Raiders wouldn't let him go. He even took a painkilling injection to prepare for play, but the medical staff ruled the rookie out. 

Coach Jon Gruden hinted Monday that Jacobs could return this week after missing just one game. 

“We’re never going to put a guy out there that can’t play, but we’re going into the last game in the history of the Oakland Raiders and it’s an emotional time," Gruden told reporters. "We’re going to try to win the game. We’re not eliminated from the playoffs and we’re going to try to win every single time we strap it on.”

[RELATED: Sunday marks end of an era for longtime Black Hole residents]

Jacobs, the No. 24 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has been a star as a rookie this season. He became the first rookie in Raiders history to rush for at least 1,000 yards, and is up to 1,061 on 218 carries. The 21-year-old is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, 88.4 yards rushing per game and has scored seven touchdowns. 

Despite missing last Sunday's game, Jacobs still ranks sixth among the NFL's rushing leaders -- just 10 yards behind Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott.

Why jumping into Black Hole is so unforgettable for Raiders players

Why jumping into Black Hole is so unforgettable for Raiders players

Raiders running back Jalen Richard drifted into the left flat and caught a screen pass from quarterback Derek Carr a few yards from pay dirt. Three receivers were engaged and blocking well before him, allowing Richard to squiggle through traffic and into Oakland Coliseum’s southern end zone.

It was a big moment for the 2016 Raiders, looking to enhance playoff positioning with a Week 16 home win over Indianapolis. It was a big moment for Richard, an undrafted rookie who found himself a major contributor in a playoff push. He didn’t stop to celebrate with his teammates. No way, not after his first touchdown in the East Bay.

There was tradition to uphold. Richard made a beeline for the Black Hole.

“It was definitely planned,” Richard said. “I thought they looked like they were turnt up. Everybody was faded and having a blast. I knew I had to do it.”

It’s a rite of passage for Raiders skill players fortunate enough to score near a notoriously rabid fan section.

“Sometimes I plan on it, and other times it just happens,” Raiders running back DeAndre Washington said. “Once you get in the end zone, your adrenaline is going and you’ve got 60,000 people screaming for you to come get that love. They always embrace you. It’s one hell of a feeling. I would advise anybody who scores to try it at least once."

Jumping into the Black Hole isn’t new. Running back Napoleon Kaufman was first to do it in the mid-1990s -- the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995 -- as the Black Hole was established and growing in size and notoriety.

The tradition grew from there and has become commonplace when the Raiders break into the southern end zone. There’s one more guaranteed chance to do so Sunday against Jacksonville, the final Raiders game at Oakland Coliseum and maybe the Black Hole's last hurrah.

It’s not just rushers and receivers who can get in on the act.

Quarterback Jeff George took the leap in 1997. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and linebacker Sio Moore have partied in the crowd. Even 340-pound left tackle Donald Penn jumped into the Black Hole after scoring a big-man touchdown.

Former All-Pro fullback Marcel Reece never missed a chance to party with the fans who unwaveringly supported the Raiders during some lean years.

“Jumping in the Black Hole and celebrating with those fans, those loyalists, those people who bleed silver and black just like you do, it’s like being at Thanksgiving dinner with your family,” Reece said. “It’s that feeling where, no matter what else is going on, nothing else matters but that moment right there.

"The fact that you scored and gave them a reason to cheer is a feeling that’s like nothing else.”

There is some technique to it. You need a head of steam and decent hops to get over the stadium wall and into the crowd. It’s decently low, but folks have tried to get into the Black Hole and missed. It’s also important to jump up, turn around and go in backwards. The leap of faith will be rewarded by fans ready to catch you.

“You need a little bounce or you’ll get embarrassed,” Raiders running back DeAndre Washington said. “I’ve seen a few guys miss the leap, so you’ve got to be ready to get vertical. Even if you don’t make it, the fans will pull you up. You might get a little beer on you, but that’s part of the experience.”

There’s another aspect of the experience first-timers don’t expect. Getting in is easy. Getting out is another matter.

“Sometimes they don’t like to let you go,” Washington said. “And, if you get in there with the ball, it’s going to be a fight for sure. You have to protect it like you were still running.”

[RELATED: Sunday marks end of an era for longtime Black Hole residents]

The experience doesn’t last long. Teammates come running up quick, with offensive linemen ready to pull scorers out of the abyss. Beer stains come with it, but it’s a unique part of the Raiders playing experience.

“It’s like you’re a part of the Black Hole for a split second,” Richard said. “You jump up there and you just feed off of their energy. It’s pretty awesome.”