Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden sent a clear message to Martavis Bryant on Saturday after the former Steelers wide receiver’s start to training camp was not as Gruden had hoped. The Raiders traded a third round pick to Pittsburgh to acquire the four-year veteran and Gruden expected him to have a better understanding of the playbook than he has shown.
“He’s gotta get out here and play better,” Gruden said of Bryant. “He’s gotta get out here. He’s in a competitive situation and right now a lot of the other receivers have had a nice camp. He’s just gotta learn the offense, he’s gotta stay out here. He’s had some illnesses, he’s gotta get on the field, he’s gotta master the offense and become more versatile. That’s the key to making this team better.”
Despite Gruden’s strong words, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr insists that Bryant has been playing with a “sense of urgency to pick things up” and wants to get it right.
“He always practices hard, that’s never a question,” Carr said after Tuesday’s joint practice with the Detroit Lions. “He’s going to practice hard. And usually that’s the hardest part to get someone to practice hard, but he is. No problem practicing hard and going hard. In the film room and in the playbook is where he’s really working hard and he’s gotten a lot better.”
Nobody is questioning Bryant’s physical abilities, as the 6’5” receiver is one of the fastest players in Silver & Black. But the explosive receiver will not get a chance to showcase that athleticism until the mental side of his game improves as Gruden has made it clear that the Raiders will frequently change plays at the line of scrimmage.
“As he (Gruden) would say, he gave me the keys to his car,” Carr continued. “He gives me the freedom to do what I feel is necessary at the line of scrimmage because we’ve talked about things.”
Because of this, Carr has to be on the same page as his receivers at all times. The Raiders quarterback stressed that preparation is key to the offense’s success as an audible could come with as little as five seconds remaining on the playbook.
“Because, Coach Gruden wants me to play a certain way and all of those guys have to know every spot so that in the heat of the game, if I get to something because I see the look, they have to know what to do at the drop of a hat,” said Carr. “I think that the way that he demands and the way that he teaches it puts pressure on all of our guys, even the young guys, to play fast mentally and physically. That way, there could be five seconds on the clock, I’ll change a play and then snap the ball, they have to be able to handle that kind of stuff.”
Bryant has impressed his quarterback with his effort to improve in the mental portion of the game, but he could very well lose time on the field until Gruden is convinced he has mastered the Raiders playbook and audible changes.