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Michael Crabtree needs to seize new opportunity with Raiders under Jon Gruden

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Michael Crabtree is reportedly coming back to the Oakland Raiders. And he has something to prove after a disappointing 2017 campaign. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

When the Oakland Raiders announced Jon Gruden was returning to the sidelines, many wondered if that was the end of Michael Crabtree’s time with the Silver and Black. But according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, Crabtree met with Gruden to clear up any misconceptions.

Like, that the 30-year-old receiver quit on the team last season.

Crabtree has diva tendencies. When he’s on a winning team, he’ll flash his pearly white teeth in jubilation. But as we witnessed last season — as well as during his days playing for Mike Singletary and a San Francisco 49ers team stuck in neutral — Crabtree can pout with the best of them.

With a strong-minded coach like Gruden, who’s known to get in a player’s face when he’s displeased, it raised concerns if he and Crabtree could co-exist.

Crabtree’s last two games in 2017 left a bitter taste. Something was amiss as he accumulated a measly two catches for 17 yards, and with $7.5 million dollars due to hit his bank account, it did seem as though Crabtree was as good as gone.

To put it lightly, the Raiders underachieved a season ago. Crabtree was no different as his numbers plummeted after a big 2017. He finished with 58 receptions (on 101 targets) for 618 yards and eight touchdowns after catching 89 passes for 1,003 yards and eight TDs in 2016.

Of course, his struggles are partly due to quarterback Derek Carr’s down year, a lack of creativity from former offensive coordinator Todd Downing, and of course Amari Cooper’s regression. (According to Carr, Cooper played most of the season on one healthy foot.)

However, Gruden doesn’t mess around with prima donnas, and Crabtree — whether he agrees or not — is in that category.  When Gruden was coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he deactivated Keyshawn Johnson for the final six games of the 2003 season — a year after the Bucs won the Super Bowl.

I don’t believe Crabtree has ever shaken up a locker room to that extent, but he’s not afraid to slump his shoulders and bicker on the sideline if he feels he’s not getting his way.

I’m a fan of Crabtree and believe some of his bad traits can be traced to being in locker rooms that lack leaders and direction. Last season with the Raiders became toxic. And former head coach Jack Del Rio has to be responsible for some of that.

The 2018 season should produce a more disciplined and Oakland Raiders. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see them compete for an AFC West title, which would be their first since 2002.

And Crabtree, who didn’t display the great hands he possesses in 2017, should be revived under Gruden. He’ll be given plenty of opportunities to help the Raiders become consistent on offense.

And if he’s able to deliver on those reasonable expectations, it could change his legacy significantly. After last year, he’ll need it.

Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from 12-3 on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.

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