Site unchanged: Raiders plan to play Chargers in Oakland


Site unchanged: Raiders plan to play Chargers in Oakland

ALAMEDA – The Raiders are set to host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum. Expect it to remain that way.

The NFL explored alternative sites, including Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium, for that AFC West contest due to poor air quality emanating from active fires raging through Napa and Sonoma Counties.

They won’t use one. The Raiders wanted to keep that home game in Oakland and ultimately will do so. They’ve already lost a home date to Mexico City – they play New England there in Week 10 – and didn’t want to lose another.

The Raiders announced Friday at noon that kickoff is still scheduled for 1:25 p.m., though the team and the NFL will continue monitoring air quality conditions in the area.

“It looks like we’ll play here,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Should go off (as scheduled). I think Cal plays tonight, Stanford plays Saturday. I don’t know if they are canaries or not, but we’ll get an indication. I think we’re going to be fine.

“Obviously, it’s a serious situation, what’s going on up North. A lot of people have had their lives turned upside down. A lot of people lost their lives. It’s a tough deal, but the smoke part of it for us, we adjusted during the week, did the best we could with the situation. Now we’re prepared to go.”

The Raiders trimmed their practice schedule this week to limit exposure to the air, and some players wore masks during Thursday to decrease it further. The Environmental Protection Agency declared the air in Oakland and Alameda “unhealthy” during each practice session this week, and recommended healthy adults avoid heavy exertion while outdoors.

“We shrunk everything a little bit,” Del Rio said. “We got the body of work, the reps that we typically get. We got looks at them, we just didn’t do it in pads on Wednesday like we would have. The pacing was reduced a little, but we got the looks we needed to get.”

It’s virtually impossible to forecast air quality days in advance, especially with smoke from uncontained active fires. The Raiders will move forward with the game as scheduled. There is a possibility the game time could be moved, but the Oakland Coliseum will host the game.

Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies


Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies

Former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano died unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was 56.

The Minnesota Vikings announced his passing, though an exact cause of death is unknown.

He was the Vikings offensive line coach, a position he held since 2016. Sparano had been an NFL coach for nearly two decades, with stints in Oakland and San Francisco. He was also Miami's head coach from 2008-11.

He was hired to run the Raiders offensive line in 2013, and was promoted to interim head coach after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the 2014 campaign.

Sparano showed well in that role, kept the team playing hard during a difficult 3-13 season and nearly had the interim tag removed. He was a finalist for 2015 head coaching job, though Jack Del Rio ultimately got the job.

He left the organization then, and spent the 2015 season as 49ers tight ends coach. He ended up in Minnesota after that.

Sparano helped the Raiders finished 2014 with a three wins over their final six games, which started an upward trend that carried through 2016. He also remained patient with then-rookie starter Derek Carr.

Left tackle Donald Penn joined the Raiders in 2014, and experienced a career renaissance that season under Sparano.

The Silver and Black mourned Sparano's loss.

"The Raiders family was deeply saddened to learn of Tony Sparano's passing this morning," the team said in a statement. "Tony had a deep passion for football and was embraced by the Raider Nation during his time with the Silver and Black. Tony will be sadly missed by the entire NFL community. Our hearts are with (his wife) Jeanette and the Sparano family during this extremely difficult time."

The 49ers also paid respects to the longtime NFL coach.

“The 49ers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Tony Sparano,” the 49ers said in a statement. “We share our heartfelt condolences with the Sparano family and the Minnesota Vikings.”

Sparano is survived by his wife Jeanette, their three children and four grandchildren.

Jon Gruden gets Raiders fans ready for training camp with party


Jon Gruden gets Raiders fans ready for training camp with party

To celebrate his return to the sideline, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden threw a party for fans on Friday at Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill in San Leandro.  

Raider Nation showed up in droves. 

In all, over 500 fans showed up, according to a Ricky's spokesperson.

"We are honored to be a part of the love story between Jon Gruden and this fan base," the spokesperson said. "It's incredibly special. And the significance of this event, at this time, is not lost on us."

The Raiders, Gruden, and Ricky's all collaborated on the event, which came together because of Gruden's relationship with Ricky's owners, Ricky and Tina Ricardo. Gruden paid for the catering and entertainment himself, according to the spokesperson. 

Plenty of Raiders alumni attended, including Cliff Branch and Lester Hayes, according to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. Branch even took the mic and made a guarantee. 

Gruden broke in as an NFL head coach with the Raiders in 1998, and coached Oakland for four seasons. It was in Oakland where Gruden was first given the nickname "Chucky," after the murderous puppet in the Child's Play film franchise. Gruden paid tribute to those roots at Ricky's with a... creative autograph signing. 

Raiders training camp begins on July 27. Whether or not the team will be joined by its best defensive player remains to be seen. 

Star defensive end Khalil Mack skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June in pursuit of a new contract. Gruden told fans on Friday that the team will "find a way" to bring Mack back.