Jon Gruden speaks with Willie Brown at Raiders training camp (photo by Levi Damien)
It has been over 11 years since Jon Gruden last set foot on the Raiders' training camp practice field. That was the last season he was the team's head coach before he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a first round pick. And since he got his revenge on his former team by beating them in the Super Bowl in his first season in Tampa Bay, there wasn't exactly an open door to the Raiders training camp facility for him.
Gruden was not in Raiders' camp without good reason. He and co-host Mike Tirico will be calling the ESPN Monday Night Football preseason opener between the Raiders and Cowboys at O.co coliseum. The two of them were schmoozing with Raiders coaches and front office personnel but Gruden was having a Raider reunion.
The head coach turned broadcaster was seen chatting it up with just about everyone of significance (no offense to anyone he didn't speak with). When he arrived at practice, he spent a long while talking with Raiders radio and television personality, Greg Papa.
Then he moved over to talk to his old defensive backs coach, and current "Team Ambassador", Willie Brown. The Hall of Fame Raider had been the team's defensive backs coach for 25 years (1978-88, 1995-2009) which included all of Gruden's years as the head coach in Oakland from 1998-2001.
Also coming over to chop it up with Chucky were Head Trainer H. Rod Martin. Gruden's four year tenure in Oakland was but a sidenote in Martin's 33 years as a trainer with the Raiders. Although, no other Raider head coach in Martin's time with the team has gone on to become as much of a household name as Gruden.
The next reunion was with General Manager Reggie McKenzie. Those two have history from their days together in Green Bay when Gruden was an offensive assistant for three seasons from 1992-94. McKenzie worked with the Packers as an executive for 18 seasons and was named Director of Player Personnel in Gruden's final season there.
With the reunions out of the way, it was on to speak with the man holding the position Gruden was in last time he was here-- new head coach Dennis Allen. This, of course, means you can expect to hear Gruden say "When I was speaking with Dennis Allen the other day..." a few times on air on Monday. Any analyst worth his salt gets his info right from the source.
It was a happy homecoming for the most beloved Raiders head coach since Tom Flores. It's a shame we couldn't have witnessed a reunion between Gruden and Al Davis. Although with the way things split between them, that may not have happened even if Davis were still around.
It is all part of the new regime and the emphasis they have placed on putting out a positive image to the media. No more shroud of secrecy, no more ‘us against the world.' We'll have a cheery Chucky with nothing but glowing reviews about the team which gave him his first head coaching gig. And that's a good thing.