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Steve Grogan
FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Coach Jon Gruden returns to practice field for Raiders

Tue Apr 24 8:28pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden watches as players stretch at the team's NFL football facility in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, left, talks with wide receiver Jordy Nelson at the team's NFL football facility in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, center left, talks with quarterback Derek Carr (4) and offensive players at the NFL football team's facility in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, center, performs a drill at the NFL football team's facility in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throws during practice at the team's NFL football facility in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Jon Gruden yelled out instructions, called out plays and ran an NFL practice for the first time since leaving coaching nearly a decade ago in Tampa Bay.

This was the day Gruden had been waiting for ever since he was hired for a second stint as Oakland Raiders coach.

The Raiders opened their first voluntary minicamp under Gruden on Tuesday with optimism that a change in coach can alter the fortunes of a team coming off a down season.

''The practice field has always been a laboratory for a coach,'' Gruden said. ''That's where we earn our pay. We have to develop this team. We have to learn a lot about them quickly. We have a lot of things to teach, a lot of things to improve. It was fun to be out there. I don't want to be too deep or philosophical or I might start crying.''

While only the first 30 minutes of practice were open to the media, there was a different vibe than in previous years with Gruden's loud voice replacing music as the soundtrack on the field.

There were even large video boards on the field, allowing players to watch replays of practice plays immediately after they happened to make corrections more quickly. Gruden said that was something his first saw watching Jim Harbaugh's practices at Michigan and adopted it himself.

Gruden viewed this minicamp as an examination to see how well the players have learned the plays and system in meeting rooms the past two weeks. Gruden said he tried to throw a few extra wrinkles at quarterback Derek Carr and was pleased with how he responded.

''He threw everything at me,'' Carr said. ''He tried to get me to see if I was listening to him in the meetings. We had a lot of fun doing that. It's always fun to accept his challenge and hopefully do good at it and look at him or wink at him or something like that. We have fun together because we both have the same goal of putting the ship in the water and hitting this thing running.''

Gruden takes over a team that fell from 12 wins in 2016 to just six last season, leading to the firing of coach Jack Del Rio and a second stint for Gruden in Oakland. The Raiders' facility looks far different than it did during Gruden's first tenure from 1998-2001 with a workout center that Del Rio initiated and new fields.

The team needs plenty of work after last year's disappointment.

The Raiders had major drops in scoring (26 to 18.8), yards per game (373.3 to 324.1) and committed twice as many turnovers (14 to 28) this past season as Carr took a major step back in his development while dealing with a back injury for part of the season.

But Gruden sees great potential that Carr can get back to the level he was in 2016 when his play helped earn him a $125 million, five-year extension in the offseason.

''I got really excited out there today,'' Gruden said. ''You can have a really creative imagination with that guy at the quarterback position. He can make every throw. It comes out of his hand fast and accurate. He's mobile and sharp. He's a great leader.''

The defense became the first in NFL history to fail to record an interception in the first 10 games of the season and generated only 14 takeaways all season compared to 30 in 2016.

The Raiders have brought in more than 20 free agents this offseason as Gruden has tried to put his own imprint on the team with one of the most significant moves being the signing of receiver Jordy Nelson to replace Michael Crabtree, who was released to make room.

But there are also some key pieces missing, most notably 2016 AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, who is not participating in the offseason program while seeking a long-term contract before he can become a free agent next offseason.

Starting left tackle Donald Penn is still recovering from foot surgery and last year's top two draft picks, cornerback Gareon Conley (shin) and safety Obi Melifonwu (hip), aren't taking part in team drills.

Player Notes
Dalvin Cook Apr 25 12:40am ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (knee) should be a full participant in training camp in late July. He tore his ACL in his left knee in Week 4 last October in his rookie season, but he has been doing some on-field work during offseason workouts. "Really, Dalvin's knocked the rehab out of the park," athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said. "He's done a great job. He's been here every day since the injury occurred post-surgery. … He'll participate in (organized team activities and minicamp) on a limited basis. … Then the plan is for him, hopefully when he gets to training camp … he'll be a participant just like everybody else." It's a great sign that Cook is already working out on the field, and he should be 100 percent by late summer, barring any setbacks. Cook was on his way to being an RB1 value for fantasy owners in his rookie season, and he'll be drafted as such as the focal point of the backfield in 2018.

Rob Gronkowski Apr 25 12:30am ET

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said he will return for the 2018 season after contemplating retirement. "I met with coach [Bill Belichick] today and informed him I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats," Gronkowski wrote on his Instagram account. "I have been working out, staying in shape and feel great." Because he's dealt with a number of serious injuries in his career, the soon-to-be 29-year-old was considering hanging up his cleats. Gronk will return, but he'll sit out of offseason workouts in order to rest his body. He's extremely injury-prone, which makes him a high-risk, high-reward fantasy tight end. When he's healthy and producing, he's an elite option at the position.

Andrew Luck Apr 24 10:50pm ET

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) is not throwing at the team's veteran mini-camp, per George Bremer of CNHI Sports. This should hardly come as a surprise given general manager Chris Ballard's statements from four days ago, but Luck wasn't even out there playing catch with his fellow veterans according to Bremer. Luck hasn't thrown a live pass since January 1 of 2017, which has to raise some concerns for fantasy owners about his ability to remain durable even if he does return for the upcoming season. It's likely that there won't be any definitive information about Luck's status until the beginning of training camp, and even then its a bit of a gamble.

Paul Perkins Apr 24 3:20pm ET

New York Giants running back Paul Perkins (pectoral) injured his pectoral while training in the offseason, and his arm is in a sling during the team's workouts this week. It's unclear how long Perkins will be out, so stay tuned for more information on his injury. He was disappointing in 2017, rushing just 41 times for 90 yards in 11 games for the G-Men. New York already signed veteran Jonathan Stewart in free agency and are fully expected to draft Penn State stud running back Saquon Barkley second overall on Thursday, so Perkins might be on the outside looking in heading into training camp anyway. There's also Wayne Gallman to worry about.

Dez Bryant Apr 24 3:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear on Tuesday that the team is planning on moving forward without Dez Bryant. The Bryant market has been a bit quieter than expected, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys should be expected to jump in. Bryant has drawn interest from a few teams, with the New York Giants rumors getting the most legs of late, but he has yet to schedule any visits. He and his agent are both likely waiting until after the draft to see where Bryant best fits going forward.

Todd Gurley Apr 24 2:20pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams picked up the fifth-year options on running back Todd Gurley and cornerback Marcus Peters on Tuesday, according to sources. In head coach Sean McVay's offense in 2017, Gurley excelled, setting career highs in carries (279), yards (1,305), rushing scores (13), receptions (64), receiving yards (788) and receiving touchdowns (six). He will once again be the focal point of a rising offense and is worth a high first-round selection in drafts. Peters was acquired in a trade with KC this offseason and will immediately upgrade the team's secondary as one of the best young cornerbacks in the game.

Cam Newton Apr 24 12:40pm ET

Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said the team is discussing re-signing quarterback Derek Anderson, but Hurney is also considering drafting another quarterback. If Anderson returns to the Panthers, he could compete for the backup job to Cam Newton with another signal caller that the team drafts. Anderson is not fantasy relevant.

Odell Beckham Jr. Apr 24 12:30pm ET

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will "absolutely" be a part of the team in 2018. Beckham isn't ready to physically take part in the team's voluntary minicamp, but it's a great sign that he's even present as the two sides try to work out a long-term contract extension. After playing in just four games last year due to a season-ending ankle injury, OBJ should be back to full strength this year and should once again be an elite WR1 option for fantasy owners.

Willie Snead Apr 24 12:09pm ET

The New Orleans Saints aren't matching restricted free-agent wide receiver Willie Snead's offer sheet with the Baltimore Ravens, meaning he will sign with the Ravens, according to a source. It's an under-the-radar signing after Snead fell off a cliff in his final season with the Saints. However, he did have 72 receptions for 895 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, so he could be a late-round sleeper in deeper leagues if he secures Baltimore's slot receiving role in 2018. However, in a run-first offense with Joe Flacco at the helm, Snead doesn't figure to have a very high ceiling in his new digs.

Morgan Burnett Apr 24 11:40am ET

Despite some big signings in free agency, the Green Bay Packers still have some very significant holes to fill on their roster. With a league-high 12 draft picks in the 2018 draft, there has been some chatter that Green Bay may use some of that draft capital to move up from No. 14 to grab a player who can contribute right away. In particular, they would likely try and grab a defensive back. After losing their best cornerback in Damarius Randall as well as long-time starter Morgan Burnett, Green Bay badly needs some young blood in the secondary. So if they move up, you can expect them to grab either Ohio State's Denzel Ward or the versatile Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama. Green Bay also has some holes on the offensive end, namely at wide receiver, but it is expected that they will look to address the position in later rounds.

Kam Chancellor Apr 24 11:40am ET

Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor (neck) will undergo a neck scan in late June or early July, and the team should know more about his future at that time, according to general manager John Schneider. Chancellor has been the heart and soul of Seattle's tough defense for years, but he also hasn't played a full season since 2013. In a career-low nine games in 2017, Chancellor had only 49 tackles and no interceptions. At this point it's unclear if he'll be able to contribute much heading into his age-30 season.

Tyrod Taylor Apr 24 11:40am ET

ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted on Tuesday that the Cleveland Browns are "definitely" considering Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in Thursday's NFL draft. The inclusion of Mayfield means the Browns have been strongly linked to Wyoming's Josh Allen, USC's Sam Darnold and Mayfield in the past few weeks. At this point, it is anyone's guess who exactly the Browns are targeting with the first overall pick, although it will almost certainly be a quarterback. General manager John Dorsey has been extremely tight-lipped about his plans for the draft and the addition of Mayfield's name to the pool just adds more drama and intrigue to the draft. However, whoever they choose is expected to sit behind Tyrod Taylor, so the rookie won't have any redraft value in fantasy leagues.

A.J. McCarron Apr 24 11:40am ET

The Buffalo Bills are unlikely to use their stockpile of draft picks to trade up to No. 2 overall (Giants pick) to select a quarterback, according to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport. "From what I understand, it's not going to be one of those things where they just sell out and (trade) all the way to No. 2 with the Giants," Rapoport said. "I would be at this moment surprised if that happens." Instead, Buffalo is more likely to make a move to trade up if a quarterback they like slips to the fifth or sixth overall pick. As of right now, A.J. McCarron is Buffalo's starting quarterback, so they will surely address the position early in the first round on Thursday. Whoever they select has a real chance to carve out some redraft value in his rookie year.

Odell Beckham Jr. Apr 24 11:23am ET

Updating an ongoing story, New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) will absolutely be part of the team in 2018, according to head coach Pat Shurmur.

Melvin Gordon Apr 24 11:20am ET

Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco announced Monday that the team plans to pick up running back Melvin Gordon's fifth-year option on his rookie deal. It is a no-brainer after Gordon had his best season as a pro last year, going over 1,000 yards on the ground for the first time in his three years in the league. He also played a full season for the first time while scoring 12 total touchdowns. His 1,581 yards from scrimmage ranked fifth in the NFL. Gordon is scheduled to make $1.9 million in 2018. He will once again be a target at the end of the first round in fantasy drafts as a clear RB1.

Odell Beckham Jr. Apr 24 11:10am ET

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) was present at the team's voluntary minicamp on Tuesday, but he is still not 100 percent from his ankle surgery last year, according to a team source. OBJ won't take part in all of practice, but it's a good sign he's even there while he continues to negotiate a long-term extension with the team. With a trade now unlikely, it appears as though Beckham won't be going anywhere. He played in just four games because of a season-ending ankle injury in 2017, but he should bounce back and be an elite wide receiver for fantasy owners in 2018.

Jamar Taylor Apr 24 10:43am ET

Cleveland Browns CB Jamar Taylor could wind up on the trade block if the Browns take a cornerback high in the NFL draft.

Odell Beckham Jr. Apr 24 10:33am ET

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) will go through the walkthrough Tuesday, April 24, at voluntary workouts, but he's not 100 percent to practice, according to a source.

Sebastian Janikowski Apr 24 10:03am ET

Updating previous reports, Seattle Seahawks PK Sebastian Janikowski received a one-year, $2.015 million deal. He'll receive a $1.015 million base salary, a $600,000 signing bonus and a $100,000 bonus if he's on the 53-man roster Week 1. He'll also receive $300,000 in per-game active roster bonuses.

Antonio Gates Apr 24 8:33am ET

Free-agent TE Antonio Gates (Chargers) hasn't had any recent contact with the Los Angeles Chargers, according to general manager Tom Telesco. The chances are slim that he re-signs with the team.