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Jon Gruden not just challenging Raiders young players, but his veterans over offseason break

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NFL: Oakland Raiders-Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By now the Raiders players and coaches are scattered to the wind. Each leaving for a much needed break, many to spend some time with family and friends. It will be at least five weeks before any of these players are back with the team for training camp, but that doesn’t mean they have five weeks of relaxation time. They have some homework to do.

There’s an entirely new coaching staff which means new schemes on both sides of the ball. Even the players who have been here and played at a high level have to put in extra work.

“I have to spend a lot more time,” said Rodney Hudson. “Any time you go into an offseason and you’ve been in the same system for two or there years, you might not have to look at things as close as I have to now because it’s new and we have a bunch of different things we’re doing. We want to perfect them. Even though nothing is perfect, we want to perfect what we’re doing. I will have to be studying a good bit.”

In minicamp, the players got over 100 plays in order to put as much of the playbook on its feet and hopefully instill it into their memories over the break.

“We try to get more reps than anybody in the league,” said Gruden. “That’s one thing if I go down, you’ll be able to say the Raiders got more reps than anybody in football. (laughter) We’re going to try to lead the league in effort and try to lead the league in reps. Repetition is the mother of learning.”

What this creates is a lack of excuses. The book learners and visual learners alike have it. Now they just need to lock it in over the break so they don’t miss a beat when the players hit the field for training camp at the end of July. Gruden won’t settle for anything less than perfection in this regard. His doghouse could be might crowded if there is complacency.

This goes especially for the young players who are trying to break in and/or find a role on this team. But Gruden isn’t just putting the challenge on them. He’s putting it on the veterans to do their part to ensure the young players are up to speed.

“Well, I challenged our draft picks, our rookies, all of them. I challenged really the last three draft classes,” said Gruden as the team wrapped up minicamp. “We need to get more out of our young players here. I also told them that I don’t think we can bring in much better leadership from a veteran class of guys.

“I told the veterans if the young guys don’t start following you guys, you’ll be playing in all four preseason games. We’ve got some great role models. I want our young guys to stay on the gas pedal, be smart in what they do in the offseason and try to keep their football very close to them; keep studying, keep training and getting mentally and physically fresh. If we do that, we’ll have a chance.”

Gruden has received a great deal of criticism how many veterans he has brought onboard. But there is a benefit to having these guys onboard. With a new staff and a new system, the veterans can help keep the young players from feeling overwhelmed.

Bringing in so many older players isn’t a great long term philosophy, but for now it could pay dividends; especially in filling the gaps between organized team practices of which there are far fewer than when Gruden last coached. An elimination of practice time he calls “hogwash.”

The coaches have been hard at work under Gruden since well before the players were even allowed in the building. Now those coaches get a breather and the players have to self police and do their homework, because when they return to action for training camp, the transition back will be somewhere between swift and non-existent.

Happy vacation, fellas.