ALAMEDA — When Jon Gruden was roaming the Oakland Raiders sideline from 1998-2001, I was a broke teenager struggling to grow a mustache. With Gruden back at the helm, watching him bark signals at his offense on Thursday, with an Oakland Raiders snapback loosely on his head, was a bit surreal.
As a member of the media, Gruden being back in the Bay Area is good for my job. One thing is sure: The man can work a room.
Maybe Gruden was in a joyous mood because of the way his first offseason is going, with guys like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Marshawn Lynch. Maybe it’s because he wanted even more time with his new team.
“I’m really pleased with the offseason. Couldn’t really be more pleased. I got a lot of reps,” Gruden said. “We came together as a team, which is the most important thing and we made progress. I saw the development of some young players and I saw the assertiveness of some veteran players, which is absolutely a huge positive.”
On the topic of the new NFL, which limits practice time and repetition for younger guys on the roster, Gruden was less than enthused.
“If I go down, you’ll be able to say the Raiders got more reps than anybody in football,” Gruden said. “We’re going to try to lead the league in effort, and try to lead the league in reps. Repetition is the mother of learning. I learned that from (former Tennessee head coach) Johnny Majors way back when.”
Gruden was just warming up.
“A lot of people right now are trying to eliminate reps, eliminate practices, and I think it’s hogwash,” Gruden said. “It’s just a matter of time before your backup left guard has to play. It’s a matter of time before your backup quarterback has to play. If they don’t get any reps, you’re not gonna be very good at what you do. Sorry for going off on that tangent.”
That rant was worth the 45-minute drive from San Francisco. Words don’t do Gruden’s rant justice. His facial expressions are one of a kind. The intensity in his eyes is second-to-none. Passion is an understatement when it comes to Gruden and the way he feels about the game of football.
Gruden will have to chill for the next few days, as he’s going to have right elbow surgery. It’s an injury that’s lingered due to him trying to simulate Junior Seau crashing through the A-gap.
“I had elbow surgery from Warren King the last time I was coaching the Raiders and I’ve had a relapse,” Gruden said, “I can’t straighten my right arm anymore and it’s been sore for the last few years. Mo Collins, one of my old offensive guards, knocked me sideways and I landed on my elbow, so I had surgery. Long story short it’s bothering me really bad. I can hardly throw and I can’t golf, so hopefully, in a couple weeks I’ll be 100 percent.”
Classic Gruden. You can’t put too much stock into minicamps, however, that doesn’t apply with the head coach. Even after a minicamp practice, he’s already in midseason form.