Raiders

Vontaze Burfict wastes no time reuniting with Raiders DC Paul Guenther

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AP

Vontaze Burfict wastes no time reuniting with Raiders DC Paul Guenther

Vontaze Burfict was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, and immediately called his mother. The veteran linebacker explained the situation, ended the call and then made another one.

“The second person I called was Pauly G,” Burfict said. “He didn’t pick up. I think I called him like seven times straight.”

Those who know Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther best call him “Pauly G.” Count Burfict firmly in that class.

That’s why Burfict didn’t last long on the open market. The Raiders signed him Tuesday night to a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $5 million, less than 24 hours after he was released.

A Guenther-Burfict reunion seemed inevitable because of the veteran’s expertise running the coordinator's defensive scheme and a clear bond on and off the field.

Player and coach have a close relationship dating to Burfict’s rookie season in Cincinnati. Guenther was Burfict's position coach in 2012, and the two fostered a strong working relationship during a long-night cram session before a Sept. 23 game against Washington. Thomas Howard hurt his knee, Burfict recalled, and Guenther told him he would start and play out of position. Burfict was a middle linebacker by trade, but the Bengals needed him on the outside.

“It was like 8 p.m., and he took his time out to set the trash cans up and go through the whole playbook over like two hours with me,” Burfict said in a conference call after he signed with the Raiders. “I got like nine tackles that game, and I just looked at him and said, ‘I appreciate that. You took your time out when you could’ve just gone home.' Ever since then, it has been a close relationship to where I know his kids and his wife. We go out to dinner. It’s a good time to have a good relationship like that with a coach.”

That should help Guenther’s system run smoothly, an important factor with so much youth on defense. Burfict can be an on-field coordinator if he can stay healthy and out of trouble with the NFL.

Burfict said he’s fully fit after concussion problems last season and health issues in recent years. The NFL has disciplined him several times for vicious, illegal after-the-whistle hits that some consider dirty. That includes a nasty blow dropped on former Steelers receiver and new Raiders teammate Antonio Brown that generated plenty of negative press.

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Burfict doesn’t consider his style poor form.

“I’m not a dirty player,” Burfict said. “I play a physical position at middle linebacker. I can’t go in there playing patty-cake. If I do that, I’m going to get run over. I have 300-plus-pound linemen coming in trying to block me. If I play soft, I’m not doing my job. … I play a physical position where I have to put my jockstrap on right, put my cleats on right and be ready to play physical.”

Raiders' Jon Gruden optimistic Trent Brown will play Week 8 vs. Texans

Raiders' Jon Gruden optimistic Trent Brown will play Week 8 vs. Texans

ALAMEDA – The Raiders didn’t have Trent Brown available Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. A calf strain took care of that.

Head coach Jon Gruden hopes that was a one-game absence.

He admitted looking at a glass half full, but believes the star right tackle has a real shot to play Sunday against the Houston Texans.

“I think this week he has a better than 50/50 chance,” Gruden said. “That’s me being optimistic, but right now I’d say it’s questionable at best.”

Gruden praised David Sharpe’s effort playing in Brown’s spot. Sharpe allowed four total pressures and was called for holding twice on drives where the Raiders still scored touchdowns.

The Raiders brought Brown to Green Bay after formally designating him doubtful, just in case the improbable happened and he was able to go.

“I didn’t think there was really a good chance that he could play, but I thought he could be my bodyguard if he didn’t,” Gruden said. “I like Trent, I like having him around. I just like being around the guy. I like him being around our team. But there was a chance, so we had to take him.”

The Raiders didn’t bring receiver Tyrell Williams on the trip. He was ruled out Sunday with plantar fasciitis.

“He ran today, showing some progress,” Gruden said. “All I can say is we’re crossing our fingers. We really are.”

The Raiders need Williams back to help the receiver corps. Zay Jones was inactive Sunday – he simply not ready to absorb a heavy workload in an offense he joined two weeks prior – and getting him involved and Williams back would help the offense significantly.

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Defensive end Arden Key is also on the mend and, like Williams, could be ready to play the Texans.

“All I can say is they’re questionable now,” Gruden said. “We’re optimistic that they’ll be ready to go for Houston.”

Why Gareon Conley trade makes sense for Raiders, might not be last one

Why Gareon Conley trade makes sense for Raiders, might not be last one

ALAMEDA -- Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley had a game he’d rather forget on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. It was his last in silver and black.

He was traded to the Houston Texans for a 2020 third-round NFL draft pick, a source said Monday, ending a relationship that didn’t seem long-lasting.

Conley’s an excellent cover man with speed, ball skills and all the physical traits one finds in a top cornerback. There were some inside the Raiders complex who thought he was at times disinterested and disengaged, wondering whether he was a perfect match for what they do defensively and the level of physicality required of Raiders cornerbacks.

Actions suggested a possible breakup before Conley's contract expired. The Raiders added two cornerbacks in the first four rounds of this year’s NFL draft despite having entrenched starters in Conley and Daryl Worley, a player the staff likes a great deal.

Conley has struggled this year. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Conley has allowed 18 catches on 26 targets for 266 yards and four touchdowns. That included a 74-yard score on Sunday against the Packers, where he also provided some lackluster run defense.

The Raiders decided to move on now, taking the best deal on the table from Houston despite playing the Texans next week.

The added selection gives the Raiders three in the third round next year. They also have two in the first and none in the second. The Silver and Black have the capital to go get just about anyone they want or can use the picks to move around the draft board and back into the second round if they choose.

They’ll stomach some awkwardness for the added draft capital, which could be used to add a player before the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline.

“It’s tough. It’s difficult,” Gruden said in his Monday press conference. “But it does give us three third-round picks next year. Five picks really in the [top 96], and that’s an area that we wanted. We wanted to continue to add to our football team. We’re excited about the possibilities next year in the draft. It is hard, it’s hard trading anybody. We have some young guys that we want to have an opportunity and that’s the decision we made.”

The Raiders have options to help the team now and/or in the future by trading someone not firmly in their long-term plans. That’s what makes this a good move by Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock.

Conley’s not a perfect fit? Ship him for a pick that can help acquire someone who is. The roster turnover under Gruden has been significant, but he has the 10-year contract and owner Mark Davis’ unconditional support, so why not build a roster as he sees fit? It’s his decade. He can do what he wants with it.

We’ll know in time if it was a good move or not, once we see the tangible return from this selection.

We know for sure the Raiders are still in the midst of a rebuild, even if they’re far more competitive than last year. They’re in the playoff picture as we near the halfway point of the season, with a tough Texans team ahead and a schedule that gets far easier after that.

The Raiders need some help at several spots, including pass rusher, linebacker and maybe even receiver despite two trades already to fortify the position. The trade market could be an avenue for assistance, and this Conley deal could be the latest -- but not the last -- domino to fall in a busy year for Raiders trades.

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There could be another deal (or two) before this trading period is done. Time will tell on that front, but Gruden and Mayock will keep a close eye on possible deals and will certainly discuss them with teams as we head toward Oct. 29.

“We’re going to try. We’re going to do what we feel like we can to improve,” Gruden said. “Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into making trades. We’re excited about having three third-round picks, two first-round picks in next year’s draft.”