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Jon Gruden brings energy, ‘old football’ back to Raiders

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Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden walks through drills as the Oakland Raiders participate in training camp at their practice facility in Napa, Calif., on Friday, July 27, 2018.

As the Oakland Raiders prepare for their preseason opener against the Detroit Lions Aug. 10 at the Coliseum, players seem to be buying in to new-but-old head coach Jon Gruden’s philosophies.

The energy that Gruden, 54, brings is palpable and familiar, from previous stints as a NFL head coach — including four seasons in Oakland from 1998 to 2001, and a championship season with Tampa Bay in 2002 — and as color commentator for Monday Night Football for eight seasons.

CORRECTION An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Raiders as opening their preseason season in the Hall of Fame Aug. 2. SFBay regrets the error.

During the opening week of training camp, Raiders players are witnessing a more in-depth version of the man known to many as “Chucky.” Tight end Jared Cook, who enters his second season in Oakland, said his first impression of Gruden has been positive:

“It’s been pretty awesome to have him here. He brings knowledge to the game, and we’re learning things about not only current football, but old football that I haven’t learned in my 10 years in the league.”

When asked what he meant by “old football,” Cook had a humorous response:

“Man, he’s bringing up film from like 1976, when you didn’t even think they had film. Like grainy film where you can barely see the players.”

Cook made light of Gruden’s tactics at the post-practice podium, but he sees the value:

“There are actual plays that we’re putting in and schemes that we’re running that are older schemes. He’s bringing players in to talk to us. Rickey Dudley [former Raiders tight end, played for Gruden from 1998 to 2000] has been a huge influence on me. Every day I’m in his ear, asking him questions, because he’s been part of this offense and he knows. It’s things like that that Gruden’s introducing us to that we have never had before. It’s pretty awesome.”

Cook said he also appreciates Gruden’s passion:

“Every day he brings energy. He makes it fun for us but he makes us work, which is good. He gets everything out of us. He sends you through a gauntlet of plays and he expects you to get every single one of them right. He’s always challenging you mentally and physically, but mostly mentally.”

Fourth-year WR Amari Cooper sees how valuable Gruden’s preparation is:

“When we’re in meetings, I kinda get the feel that he knows exactly what he’s talking about, because it seems like he never sleeps. Sometimes a meeting can go on and on and on. If nobody tells him what time it is he’ll keep going. You know that he’s been up all night, studying, watching these plays, and he knows that they’ll work.”

Cooper, with a laugh, also appreciated the older film Gruden has shown the team:

“You can’t really see it that good, but it works.”

Cooper also touched on Cook’s point about being challenged mentally:

“He wants everybody to know each position on the field. He puts an emphasis on running the same play a different way. You have to go in your room and study every night if you’re gonna remember these plays, especially with him wanting you to know each wide receiver position.”

Rookie offensive tackle Kolton Miller has been an early target of Gruden’s full-speed approach:

“We’ve really encouraged Bruce [Irvin] to give him your best stuff on occasion. We’ve asked Paul Guenther [defensive coordinator] to give us some tough looks. We’ve asked Derek Carr to change the protection at the last second, to see if he can handle the physical and mental part of it. We turned up the noise already. Some of this music I don’t even like, I’m listening to that, trying to distract.”

Gruden said that not all the challenges he’s thrown at his players have been on the field:

“He [Miller] even had to stand up and sing last night in front of his teammates. We’re trying every way we can to get him to buckle under the pressure, but he has responded.”

Miller isn’t the only one getting buckets of information thrown his way either. Gruden said he likes covering as much material as possible during training camp, even if it may be a situation that rarely occurs:

“There’s so many situations, and so little time to work on them. We try to jam a lot of them into every practice, whether it be in shorts or pads. Today we covered a couple of them that only come up once in a while, but we are trying to teach everybody the situation, to have respect for it, and when it arises hopefully we’re prepared for it.”

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