We didn’t even have to wait for actual games to see Jon Gruden’s patented scowl.
The Oakland Raiders head coach endearing disdain was on full display when he took to the podium last week after the end of rookie minicamp day one.
What prompted Gruden’s ire?
“I’m not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst,” he said referring to fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. “I realize there are a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources that have their opinion on why we shouldn’t have drafted him. This man played at Michigan. I know the head coach there. They’ve looked after him carefully.”
An irregular EKG sent Hurst home from the NFL combine and the uncertainty resulted in a draft free-fall with Oakland passing over the talented prospect five times before nabbing Hurst with the 140th overall pick.
“We’re happy to have him in any round, and I’m excited for him and I’m really excited for him because he’s an Oakland Raider and he’s a great kid. I hope you just judge him on the field. He’s been cleared medically and I’ll just leave it at that. He’s a fine football player, a very good young man that’s really excited to be with the Raiders.”
The ghost story Gruden referred to had one unnamed source stating Oakland is “irresponsible” for drafting Hurst. An unnamed head coach stated: “Only the Raiders would draft a guy who could literally die on the field from a known condition.”
Bet: That unnamed source and head coach would have jumped all over Hurst if he fell further and/or was an undrafted free agent. Bluster and anger in the league are fleeting. It’s the same as a joke acronym given to the NFL: Not. For. Long.
Gruden is shifting the attention from medical to performance, and rightfully so. Hurst has been cleared. Eyes now shift to can the Raiders coaching staff clearly elevate and refine the former Michigan Wolverine’s game.
Let’s hit the Quick Slants as fast as Gruden shot down the continuing inquires about Hurst:
- Derrick Johnson became a Raider on Monday after the team waived defensive back Darius Hillary to create a roster spot. The 35-year-old Johnson is slated to compete at middle linebacker.
- Johnson’s arrival gives Oakland it’s best coverage linebacker. That’s great. But isn’t that an indictment to the Raiders roster? A supreme vet is the team’s best cover LB … that’s awful. No offense to Johnson who shows he can still ball.
- A trio of undrafted free agents (running back Chris Warren, fullback Henry Poggi and tight end Paul Butler) took the spots of Elijah Hood (RB), Nick Sharga (FB) and Joby Saint Fleur (DL) this past Monday.
- Poggi simply looks like a Gruden Grinder. And at 6-foot-4, 257 pounds, the former tight end fits the bill as a steamroll blocking fullback.
- The shuffle in the roster goes to show Gruden expects a concerted 100-percent effort at minicamps. Expect more moves as the Raiders grind towards the regular season.
- Case in point: Veterans Cory James (linebacker) and Armonty Bryant (defensive end) were released on May 4. James was let go after a failed physical and Bryant was jettisoned for non-football illness.
- Three Raiders crossed the collegiate finish line by graduating this past week. Wide receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama), guard Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) and kicker Eddy Pineiro (Florida) all walked and got a diploma at their respective ceremonies.