Raiders

Without Kareem Hunt, Chiefs try 'to stay distraction free' vs. Raiders

Without Kareem Hunt, Chiefs try 'to stay distraction free' vs. Raiders

OAKLAND — The Chiefs squeaked out a 40-33 victory over the Raiders on Sunday afternoon, and everybody wanted to talk about someone who had nothing to do with it.

[RELATED: Raiders fall to Hunt-less Chiefs]

Kareem Hunt questions were aimed at everyone in red and gold following this result. That was expected, considering the postgame locker room was the first Chiefs access point since Hunt was summarily dismissed after video of him shoving and kicking a woman went viral Friday.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid dealt with it in his press conference’s opening statement, but players were bombarded.

It’s uncertain whether a Hunt hangover kept this one close against a lackluster Raiders squad — the Silver and Black showed great fight against the AFC’s best — but the players said they tried to push the controversy out of their minds in this game.

“We had to work today,” said Spencer Ware, the team’s new featured running back. “We had business to take care of. So we tried to stay distraction-free over here.”

The dead-last Raiders run defense might have been a perfect tonic for the Chiefs ground game, which churned out yards in their first post-Hunt experience. They had 174 yards on 30 carries, a 5.8-yard clip that well exceeds their season average.

[RELATED: Gruden costs Raiders a timeout]

It might have been difficult when Hunt and his transgressions were plastered all over social media -- everyone has a phone and a Twitter app -- Friday and Saturday, and again Sunday morning when Hunt was interviewed live on ESPN.

Reid credited his locker room for maintaining calm in a controversial situation, and keeping the Chiefs humming.

“You’ve got to bank on the strength of your locker room, those veterans and really some of the young players, too,” Reid said. “It’s a big thing for these players in (Hunt’s) draft class, so some of them really stepped up and kept things positive within the game and their feelings for Kareem in a separate area. They separated those two things.”

Players in the Chiefs locker room had seen the disturbing video of Hunt but tried to shut it out.

“Having Twitter and stuff like that, I have,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “You just have to keep going. This is a long season, and we want to keep having success, so I’m focused on the guys here and going out there and winning football games.”

Vontaze Burfict wants Antonio Brown beef behind him with both on Raiders now

burfictbrownap.jpg
AP

Vontaze Burfict wants Antonio Brown beef behind him with both on Raiders now

Things might get awkward at the start of Raiders OTAs in May.

That's when new teammates Vontaze Burfict and Antonio Brown will share a locker room for the first time.

Burfict (Cincinnati Bengals) and Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers) played on opposite sides of one of the AFC North's fiercest rivalries, and things came to a head in the 2015 postseason. That's when Burfict knocked Brown out of the playoffs with a dirty, illegal hit to the head, and received a three-game NFL suspension. 

But Burfict, who signed a one-year contract with the Raiders on Tuesday, told reporters in a conference call he isn't concerned about any lingering tension between himself and the talented wide receiver.

"We're on the same team, with one goal. It's all positive, man," Burfict said. "He's a great player, he's gonna be a Hall of Famer one day, and honestly I'm gonna approach him just like I do all my other teammates. I'll introduce myself, all that good stuff. ... There's nothing negative over here, man. We're on the same team, everything's [about] trying to win a championship over here."

The Raiders traded for Brown earlier this month, and he tweeted Tuesday that he had already reached out to Burfict.

That's a marked departure from the ex-Steelers star. When former Pittsburgh teammate Juju Smith-Schuster crushed Burfict with a vicious block, "no one enjoyed [it] more than Brown," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook wrote Tuesday. In the aftermath of Burfict's hit, Brown made his displeasure with the play clear to Cook.

“I feel like guys don’t want to stop me no more,” Brown told Cook in early 2016. “They want to take me out. They want to kill me. They want to steal my dreams. They want to ruin me. They want to end me.”

[RELATED: Why Quinnen Williams remains so humble before NFL draft]

Burfict, for his part, sounded more than ready to bury the hatchet Tuesday. He said he'll keep an open mind when he meets Brown, as well as the rest of his new teammates.

"Honestly, we might [end up being] the closest friends on the team, you know what I mean," Burfict said. "So, just gotta go along with it, and I can't wait to meet him."

If Brown's tweet is any indication, he feels the same way. 

Vontaze Burfict wastes no time reuniting with Raiders DC Paul Guenther

burfictguentherap.jpg
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.

[RELATED: Watch AB's hype video that's sure to fire up Raiders fans]

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.”