I guess we just can’t stop feeling like it’s 1998 in Napa. It was a pretty good year. A young, first time head coach Jon Gruden took over a floundering Raiders squad that year. Peyton Manning was the top pick in the draft that year. And Charles Woodson was the Raiders pick at 4th overall that year. They came together in Napa Thursday
Eighteen years after coming into the league in the draft the same year, Manning and Woodson would call it a career the same year. Woodson got his first AND second interception on Manning in their meeting in the 2015 season, then played his last game in the season finale. Manning would end his career after that season as well, but it would be a couple months later after he led the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl win.
Woodson went right from playing to the booth while Manning has not yet decided whether he wants to be back in front of the cameras.
Both players attended Raiders training camp Thursday morning. One returning to where he spent 11 training camps and to visit several former teammates still on the roster along with his old ball coach. The other to visit the training grounds for a former bitter rival from his last four NFL seasons.
Woodson didn’t have to travel far. His winery is here in Napa and he was in town for a tasting so he popped by. As he walked in, he passed bleachers of fans who cheered and yelled his name. He had some observations, including his observation that Gruden is the same as he was back when he played for him “minus the music.”
“I don’t remember that shit ever happening,” Woodson said of the music which Gruden didn’t have going during the offseason program either. “I was just telling somebody, everybody’s talking about ‘Gruden’s been out of the game, he’s out of touch.’ Actually he’s not. He’s got a DJ. I think he’s fitting right in.”
“It’s great. I remember coming in seeing a young fiery Jon Gruden and he seems to have that same thing going on. I think it’s going to be great for the players to have a guy with that kind of energy back on the sidelines. I think it’s going to be a fun year. It’s going to be a process, of course. You have to get guys to buy into what you’re selling. If they do that they’ll be fine.”
Though Manning’s home is in Tennessee, he also said he was in the area and asked to come by. So, it could have just been a coincidence he and Woodson were here on the same day. Manning had some fascinating things to say about his relationship with Gruden and how he could tell he would eventually be back in coaching. Watch and read more about that here.
You simply won’t find two players with more vast knowledge of what it takes to play at an elite level at their position(s) than these two future first ballot Hall of Famers. What a reference for these Raiders players to tap if even just for a day. The two had a similar approach to handing out advice; only if the players ask.
“It’s natural especially when the guys come up to you. I kind of let guys come to me, even when I played, instead of trying to bear down on them and interrupt their space,” Woodson said. “When guys come up to me and ask questions, I’m good with that. That just tells you a lot about the player, the guy, what he’s trying to do, what he’s trying to get accomplished. Guys want to get better. Guys are trying to make the team and you’re trying to figure out the best way to do that.”
For Manning, it was all about Derek Carr. The two played against each other for Derek’s first two years in the NFL. At that time he couldn’t exactly hold long conversations with him. Today they spoke quite a bit.
“I really like Derek,” said Peyton. “I’ve just known him a little bit from playing against him, but Jon let me sit in the QB meeting this morning and you can tell he loves it. He is very engaged and obviously trying to learn a new system, which is a challenge, but one thing about Jon Gruden is he loves football so everybody playing for him better love it too. When your QB loves it - you can tell Carr does - it shows. I pull for QBs. It’s a unique fraternity and I think the NFL needs good QBs, especially young QBs, and they’ve got a really good one in Derek for sure.”
“Peyton is one of my favorite all time,” said Carr. “He’s one of the best to ever play the game. Just to pick his mind, see some things that we think the same on, see some things that he’s seen over the years that he can ad to help me and my preparation and whatever we’re doing on the field. I took full advantage of today, after whatever drill I would go, ‘Hey, how was communication? How was execution?’ And he’d give us feedback. To have that from someone like Peyton, I think that’s kind of invaluable.”
See, throwing things back to 1998 aint so bad.
Injuries: Gareon Conley showed his face. He joined those working on the side with a trainer, which is progress. Others working on the side were Donald Penn (foot) and Eddie Vanderdoes (knee), both of whom are still on PUP. They were also joined by tackle Brandon Parker (undisclosed). Gabe Jackson left practice early with an undisclosed injury.
Returning: Jalen Richard was back from his calf strain. Martavis Bryant was back from his illness. Derek Carrier returned from his having gotten shaken up in practice on a hit from Marquel Lee on Monday.
Taking over at right guard with the first team was backup center Jon Feliciano.
It was mostly goal line drills and pass rush drills today.
Goal line drills were wide receivers vs defensive backs.
Catch(es) of the day: Griff Whalen had a pretty one-handed grab in the back of the end zone with Marcus Gilchrist in tight coverage. Martavis Bryant had an impressive catch in which he put a hand in Leon Hall’s chest to get separation and made a tough high grab look easy.
Keon Hatcher caught both of his passes in goal line drills for touchdowns. One in the back corner with Rashaan Melvin defending, other in the back of the end zone with Shaquille Richardson defending.
Ryan Switzer caught a TD in the back corner of the end zone with Shalom Luani covering. Later Karl Jospeh was called for PI on him.
Griff Whalen couldn’t hold onto the first pass with Erik Harris covering. Then had a pretty one handed grab on
Dexter McDpnald had a great goal line drill. Didn’t let Jordy Nelson have anything. Blanketed Nelson for an incompletion and later defended a pass to Jordy.
Tevin Mitchell didn’t give up a catch in his two goal line drill reps. Saeed Blacknall couldn’t hold onto it and later Mitchell broke up pass to Amari Cooper in the back corner of the end zone.
Marcell Ateman had another of his jump ball catches. This one on Shareece Wright. He tried it again later but Nick Nelson jumped up and batted it down.
Seth Roberts didn’t catch either pass to him for a TD in goal line drills. One a drop the other he was out of bounds in the back of the end zone.
Rashaan Melvin gave up TD’s in both his goal line drill reps. First to Keon Hatcher then to Amari Cooper in the back corner.
Pass rush drills:
Arden. Key. The rookie third round pick was downright unblockable. First he put on a swim move to get inside pressure on Kolton Miller (nothing new for either of them) and three other times, he made Jylan Ware look like a tackling dummy. He ran around him twice, the second time with Ware’s helmet popping off. Then he showed off his bend to leave Ware reaching at air.
Justin Ellis showed his power in driving back Jon Feliciano to collapse the pocket.
Jylan Ware was not just abused by Key. Cowser also won a hand fight with him to slip right by him for a sack.
Feliciano was driven back a couple times, first by Ellis, then by Maurice Hurst.