For the past four seasons, Raiders left tackle Donald Penn has had the responsibility of protecting Derek Carr’s blindside, and he has done a damn good job of it. But at 35 years old, and coming off a foot injury — and subsequent surgery — that snapped his incredible streak of 170 regular season consecutive games, Jon Gruden and his staff made a point to plan for the future.
With their top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, rather than address the defense, Gruden selected UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller with the 15th overall pick. That move didn’t sit well with Penn. At all.
“I’m not going to lie, as soon as I saw the draft pick, I called Gruden immediately. Like ‘man, what the fuck?’,” Penn said on Michael Rapoport’s podcast. “He didn’t answer, but when I saw him the next Monday, he was joking with me saying, ‘You were ready to kick my ass, huh, Donald?! You were mad as a motherfucker!’”
He also immediately took to twitter, not with a show of support, but with a clear message that he was taking this one personally, saying in all caps “MORE MOTIVATION.” Later Gruden swore the drafting of Miller had “nothing to do with Donald Penn.”
“This is about the future of the Oakland Raiders, we have an outstanding young quarterback, we have a need at the position, and we’re very fortunate to address it, but it doesn’t really say anything to Donald Penn,” Gruden said after the first round of the draft.
Penn seems to have come around to this and is feeling better about the situation now, and understands where Gruden was coming from when he drafted two tackles in the first three rounds. “I’m good now, he explained everything. One thing I like about him is he keeps it real.”
The 11-year veteran has two years left on his contract and plans on playing both seasons. He wants to make sure Carr will be protected after he hangs up his cleats, saying “There won’t be hard feelings because I love DC (Derek Carr), and I love the team.”
“I’m going to try and get those young guys right and take them under my wing,” Penn continued... “So when I am done, I want to make sure this first round pick gets all my tips, everything I got in my back pocket. So when he does get in there, he can protect my guy DC like I do. Because at the end of the day, me and DC are always going to be friends.”
While the veteran has embraced the role of mentor, he is still using the Raiders selections of Miller and Brandon Parker as motivation.
“I use it as motivation,” Penn said... “Competition is what drives me, so once I get back from this injury I am going to compete.”
In OTA practices, he has lined up as the first team left tackle in walk-thrus, but has not participated in team drills. According to Levi Damien, in Tuesday’s OTA session, it was Miller who ran with the first team at left tackle in team sessions.
Ideally, Penn makes a full recovery and resumes his position as the Raiders starting left tackle, while grooming Miller and Parker in the process. Either way, Gruden now has plenty of depth at the position, which was arguably Oakland’s biggest need entering the draft.