Jon Gruden

Raiders will conduct joint training camp practices with Rams in Napa


Raiders will conduct joint training camp practices with Rams in Napa

The Raiders and L.A. Rams have agreed to conduct joint training camp practices on Aug. 7-8 in Napa, the Silver and Black announced on Monday.

Adding to the storylines the “Hard Knocks” producers have to follow, now the Raiders and juggernaut Rams will square off for two days of physical work prior to the Aug. 10 preseason opener for both teams at Oakland Coliseum. 

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and Rams counterpart Sean McVay are old family friends -- McVay also once worked on Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay -- so the dynamic between the two quote machines should provide TV gold. As if there wasn’t enough to be mined from Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, Richie Incognito and Derek Carr and a team moving to Las Vegas next year already.

These Raiders-Rams practices have been in the works for some time, and will mark the second straight year the Raiders are hosting these workouts in Napa. They practiced against the Lions last year, which proved incredibly productive.

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The NFL also announced training camp report dates on Monday. Raiders rookies report to camp on July 23, with veterans due in Napa by July 26. The first full-squad practice is the 27th, with padded sessions a few days after that.

Darren Waller, on proper life and career path, poised for breakout year


Darren Waller, on proper life and career path, poised for breakout year

Darren Waller’s name came up a ton during this Raiders offseason program, always in a positive light.

The young receiving tight end flashed consistently during OTAs and minicamp, a mismatch that has dared fans to dream about another dominant skill player impacting this upcoming season.

Waller made a few big plays after joining the Raiders late last year the fan base certainly remembers, especially the 21-yard end around and the 44-yard catch-and-run in Cincinnati. The converted receiver from Georgia Tech has all the skills required to be a productive NFL player.

“We’ll we said, I think the last time we talked, since he’s been here he’s been one of our most impressive players,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He played a key role last year when he got here. He’s got some big shoes to fill, I know he respects that, but he’s versatile, he’s smart, he’s fast. He wants to do good, he’s a great kid.”

Re-read last part: He wants to do good. That’s meaningful and a dead accurate for someone who squandered early portions of his NFL career. He was suspended twice for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the second time for a full season. All those setbacks before age 26, all of them self inflicted

Waller isn’t wasting any more time. He’s dead set on maximizing a Raiders opportunity. This chance was set in motion late last year when the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad. Then Gruden decided to let Jared Cook leave in free agency and didn’t draft a receiving tight end high, setting Waller up to be a featured player.

Waller absorbed all that but still didn’t dream big. This supreme athlete is the one-day-at-a-time type, an outlook that has blazed a trail for steady progress. That’s his recipe for potential maximization.

“I just tried to prepare myself to come back and contribute again,” Waller said. “I didn’t really look as far as how big my role would be. But if my work was there and I was staying clean and being consistent in what I was doing, that my role would increase at some point.”

Staying clean was a necessary element to Waller’s progress, the bedrock of all the good that’s coming from him these days. That allows him to avoid previous pratfalls and be on the right track to prepare for his 2019 role, one that could truly launch his career.

“That gives me a place to feel good about myself and respect myself when I look in the mirror because, before, I couldn’t really do that,” Waller said. “Those kinds of things translate to the field where you know you’re kind of hesitant out there. You may think, oh I don’t know, you’re not too sure of yourself.

“But now I wake up and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in my life and representing my family in a positive way. I feel like that goes a long way into me taking on a heavier load and having confidence in myself to carry it out.”

Confidence is warranted after an excellent offseason. He’s physically stronger and was as impressive as anyone not named Antonio Brown in OTAs and minicamp work. He’s proving a reliable receiver capable of moving around the formation like Cook did last year, searching for a mismatch. He’s too big for cornerbacks at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, and too fast for linebackers and even some safeties.

Adding him to a receiving arsenal that includes Brown and Tyrell Williams could prove tough to defend. Raiders defensive backs have learned that the hard way this spring, proving optimism that Waller will thrive in 2019. He showed flashes after joining the Raiders last year, with a few big plays to his credit.

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Gruden isn’t ready to anoint Waller just yet, but he sees great potential in someone stolen from a practice squad.

“When you put the pads on three, four, five days in a row up in Napa I think that will be a better indication,” Gruden said. “He’s got a lot to prove. He’s a young player who is a converted wide receiver; don’t forget that. He’s not been brought up as a tight end, but he has made a lot of progress.”

Gruden has given Waller great support bringing him to the Raiders and providing a golden opportunity to finally thrive as an NFL player. He has received such support before and wasted it. He doesn’t plan on repeating that pattern this time around.

“The thing with me is…I feel like people have always had faith in me, but it was like I didn’t really have faith in myself,” Waller said. “So it’s part of doing my part, doing my half because a lot of coaches have stuck their neck out for me and what I’ve given them in return isn’t what they deserve or what the team deserved. For Coach Gruden to say that, I feel like I’m at a place in my life where I can build off of that and make the most of my abilities and what God gave me. That’s just what I plan on doing.”

Daryl Worley has eyes wide open heading into important Raiders season


Daryl Worley has eyes wide open heading into important Raiders season

Daryl Worley’s shoulder popped out of its socket on a cold December day in Cincinnati, a painful predicament that had to be remedied right away. Getting it back in was imperative, but the Raiders cornerback wasn’t doing so just to feel better on the bench.

He wanted to get back in the fray. That impulse was strong despite a season already down the drain and zero financial security in the 2019.

“You have a drive as competitor that has been there since you were a kid,” Worley said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “Even though the season may not have been going as we would’ve hoped, I feel like it gets to a point where you grind for six months with guys who have become your brothers. You want to take care of yourself, but you also want to be out there with them.”

It’s that drive that drew head coach Jon Gruden to him last spring. He did some homework on a guy way too talented to be unemployed, someone mired in a rough patch.

“I can still see Worley on the sideline trying to knock his shoulder back into place and keep playing,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s a tough guy. He has also had some adversity in his career, but I got a lot of respect for the way a man can get up off the ground and dust himself off given another opportunity.”

The Raiders provided a soft landing after a rough go in his native Philadelphia. The Eagles traded for him last offseason, but a run-in with the law while reportedly intoxicated and resisting arrest put him on the street.

Gruden scooped him up knowing a suspension was on its way, with unwavering support in public and private. Worley was quickly inserted into the lineup upon return, where he started nine games until that shoulder issue sidelined him in Cincinnati.

It required surgery heading into restricted free agency, a less-than-ideal scenario that could prompt the Raiders to offer a lower contract tender and prevent other teams from bidding for his services. The Raiders essentially locked him down with a second-round tender offer worth $3.095 million, meaning a team that signed him to an offer sheet the Raiders refused to match would’ve had to cough up a second-round pick. That’s really something, considering Worley was a third-round pick and the Raiders could’ve saved some coin by offering an original round tender that still would’ve been a preventive measure.

Worley appreciates the extra million bucks, but the respect factor might’ve meant more.

“When you’re getting a nudge like that, it’s both business and personal,” Worley said. “It shows the comfort they have in me, and a certain level of respect.

“I’m thankful and appreciative of everything they’ve done for me. I try to pay it back every day, with the type of professional I am and the type of player they expect.”

This is an important year for him to find top form, which is possible after recovering fully from shoulder surgery. While Worley feels a certain loyalty towards Gruden, he isn’t blind to the fact the Raiders drafted cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson in the first four rounds. Gareon Conley’s a long-term solution on one side, with plenty of present and future competition at his current spot.

The Raiders were nice about the RFA tender but didn’t extend a long-term deal, so Worley will enter 2019 with unrestricted free agency’s possible riches (and career transition) on the immediate horizon.

“As a human, you know the future is coming,” Worley said. “You think about it, but I just always feel that taking care of each day, everything else will handle itself.”

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Worley likes playing in Silver and Black, across from Conley. They have become friends since Worley signed up, and they lived together during this offseason program. Worley has high hopes for them as a shutdown pairing knowing he must do his part, as he enters his prime right now at age 24. Matching that level with Conley’s steady and top-end talent could create a real impact.

“I feel that that’s something we expect of ourselves and something we expect,” Worley said. “It’s a situation where we’re in our second year in the system and we shouldn’t just make some plays. We should also be the thing that sparks the defense and our team and changes games.”