Raiders

Talib faults Crabtree for starting fight; 'That's what he wanted'

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USATSI

Talib faults Crabtree for starting fight; 'That's what he wanted'

ALAMEDA –A brawl broke out early in Sunday’s game with the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum, and the Denver Broncos say Michael Crabtree started it.

They point to a punch to Chris Harris Jr.’s gut on the first play of Oakland’s second series. Things escalated on the next play, with Crabtree and nemesis Aqib Talib took things too far.

Talib can be shown ripping Crabtree’s chain for the second time in as many seasons. Crabtree piledrives Denver’s top cornerback to the ground on the Broncos sideline, and then got his helmet ripped off in a full-on melee. The pair threw punches, and others got caught in the wash of something everyone seemed to see coming.

Talib says he wasn’t planning on it, that Crabtree prompted the dustup.

“I came out there to play football on Sunday and I don’t really know what he came out there to do,” Talib told reporters in Denver. “I came out there to play football and he came out here on this extra stuff, so one thing lead to another. It’s unfortunate and I wish it didn’t happen, but it happened. Just have to move on.”

Talib said Crabtree’s shot to Harris Jr. didn’t prompt the second chain grab. Talib said Crabtree struck again.

“I didn’t even defend Chris,” Talib said. If you see the play, I didn’t defend Chris. He punched Chris and the next play he came and punched me. He was on his—whatever he was on. I wasn’t even defending Chris this time. That wasn’t even a problem.”

The Broncos call Crabtree the instigator. We haven’t heard Crabtree’s take. The Raiders receiver has talked once since the start of the offseason program, following a victory over Kansas City. He was not in the locker room after Sunday’s win. Those who spoke said the same thing, that they knew Crabtree and Talib had a history.

That dates back to the 2016 regular-season finale, when Talib snatched his chain for no reason. Crabtree didn’t retaliate then, making a “business decision” to focus on winning a division title (and securing a performance bonus).

He seemed ready for this one. According to an ESPN report, Crabtree wore a chain as he always does, but taped it to his body. Talib got it anyway.

The fight got out of hand from there, even with a Raiders season hanging in the balance. Crabtree and Talib seemed willing to engage on several occasions.

Talib admits the fight went on too long.

“I guess the second half of it definitely could have been defused,” he said. “That’s what I’m disappointed about, the second half of it. The first half, that was him being extra. That’s what he wanted. He didn’t want to play that game, he wanted to come out and wrestle all day. It’s alright.”

Raiders give Conley green light, Melifonwu 'doesn't look close at all'

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Raiders give Conley green light, Melifonwu 'doesn't look close at all'

The Raiders have been cautious with Gareon Conley’s return from shin surgery. The cornerback’s clearance turned from red to yellow earlier in the offseason program, but finally went green in time to start the OTAs.

Last year’s first-round pick was reportedly a first-team cover man during the Raiders first OTA session on Tuesday. It was one of three open to the media.

The Raiders plan for him to be there throughout the regular season, and believe he has the makings of a No. 1 cornerback.

Head coach Jon Gruden has been excited to see the Ohio State product in action, as part of cornerback corps also featuring Rashaan Melvin and Daryl Worley.

“Yeah, it’s great to see Conley out there,” Gruden said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “We’re counting on him. We need him. But to see Rashaan Melvin and Conley and [Daryl] Worley competing is really exciting.

Conley was impressive during his first offseason program, until he hurt his shin during the team’s June 2017 minicamp. Conley barely played after that, with two games action and a handful of limited practices. He had surgery to repair his shin in Nov. 2017, and was eased back into action somewhat.

Conley doesn’t have an injury history save last year’s mishap, and could have a real impact if he remains healthy and continues to progress.

“Conley is special,” Gruden said. “He’s a top pick in this draft for a reason. I think from a confidence standpoint, he needs to get some work in out here.”

The player Oakland selected after Conley last year still hasn’t been cleared to work. Safety Obi Melifonwu wasn’t able to participate in Tuesday’s team drills, the first time this offseason offense and defense can play against each other.

The UConn product missed last season’s first half recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and then needed hip surgery after the season. He still isn’t ready for a return.

“It doesn’t look close at all,” Gruden said. “I’ll leave it at that. He doesn’t look close, to me, at all.”

Physical issues are problematic for a player looking to earn a role on the team. The team is stocked at safety, with Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist leading the way.

“He doesn’t look ready to roll yet,” Gruden said. “So, I don’t let anybody practice without being able to go physically. He doesn’t look like he’s 100 percent. I haven’t seen much of Obi except in the training room.”

NOTES

-- Khalil Mack was not present for the start of voluntary OTAs, as expected. The elite edge rusher has missed the entire offseason program to this point, withholding services while waiting for a big-money contract extension the the Raiders have budgeted to give him. 

-- Gruden said receiver Amari Cooper is dealing with a hamstring injury.

-- Left tackle Donald Penn is working his way back from foot surgery, and participated in individual drills on Tuesday. He was held back during team sessions, leaving David Sharpe to take first-team reps at left tackle. Breno Giacomini manned the first-team right tackle spot.

-- Rookies Kolton Miller (left tackle) and Brandon Parker (right tackle) worked with reserve units at this stage. Gruden was impressed with how both players absorbed the offense.

-- Fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson remains out recovering from meniscus surgery. As previously reported, he’s expected back for training camp.

-- The Raiders are planning to have training camp practices against another team, but Gruden didn’t want to reveal the opponent until arrangements are finalized.

Raiders acquire 2016 second-round QB from Jets

Raiders acquire 2016 second-round QB from Jets

The Raiders added a fourth quarterback to the roster, trading a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick to the New York Jets for Christian Hackenberg.

Jets head coach Todd Bowles announced the transaction during a Tuesday meeting with local media.

Hackenberg joins a quarterback room that already contains starter Derek Carr and reserves EJ Manuel and Connor Cook.

Hackenberg was a second-round draft choice in 2016, but never played a regular-season NFL snap. He dressed for just five games.

He’ll be competing for a roster spot in Oakland, as the Raiders will keep a maximum of three quarterbacks.

The Jets were clearly looking for new signal callers this offseason and got them, signing Teddy Bridgewater in free agency before drafting USC’s Sam Darnold third overall in the NFL draft.

Hackenberg took a thinly veiled shot at the Jets Tuesday morning, questioning why a throwing motion overhauled by private coaches wasn't done earlier by the Jets. He was traded later that day

Hackenberg was taken two rounds before Cook in the 2016 draft – the Raiders traded up to get Cook in the fourth -- and both guys have failed to find footing on an NFL roster. Cook has been the No. 3 quarterback in two professional seasons, save an emergency playoff start in the 2016 season.

Manuel is older, though fared well in limited action last year.

Hackenberg has plenty of arm strength but has struggled with accuracy, and couldn’t secure the Jets’ starting spot that was most always up for grabs.

"I'm 23 and I got a lot of ball ahead of me," Hackenberg said Tuesday per the New York Daily News. "Hell, my career hasn't even started yet. So I'm excited about what the future holds."

News of the trade broke after Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s Tuesday media session, meaning he was not immediately available to comment on the transaction.