When the Raiders signed former Bengals middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, there were several concerns amongst Raider Nation. Was Burfict still a viable player after his concussion history? Would his propensity for personal fouls hurt the team and be a bad example for a young defense? And would he be able to co-exist with Antonio Brown, whom he famously knocked out in a game a few years before and whom he hasn’t gotten along with?
We don’t know the answer to the first two questions, but the third one doesn’t seem to be a problem so far. Jon Gruden recently spoke to NBC Sports’ Peter King about a great many things, and one of them was how Brown and Burfict are getting along as Raiders.
“They’re good. We played Family Feud one day in our team meeting. We had three guys on one team, three guys on the other. Our version of Family Feud. Silver team and a Black team. The Silver team was Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict and I think we had Isaiah Crowell on the team,” said Gruden. “You gotta try to get these guys to know each other. This is the only time that you can really do that. April, May, June. It’s almost like church. Everybody stand up. Shake a hand, introduce yourself to your teammates. Otherwise, Peter never gets to know Jon and Jon never meets Joe…”
In case you were wondering how that Family Feud game went, Gruden talked about that as well.
“It was a helluva game. One of the questions was, ‘Who were the 1,100-yard rushers in the NFL last year?’ They nailed that pretty good, but they had a hard time with [Chris] Carson of Seattle. Another question: ‘Who do the Raiders play on the other side of the Mississippi?’ Last one was top designer brands clothing or jewelry. These guys were guessing Nike, Wrangler. They don’t know s*** about fashion. But they did great. Got some laughs. These days, you gotta think outside the box.”
I’ll be honest with you, I had no idea Chris Carson went for over 1,100 yards either, so I can’t blame them for that. But with the amount of roster turnover the Raiders have had during Gruden’s tenure, team-building exercises like this are really important in building a strong locker room that can stay strong during times of adversity. The Raiders’ upcoming 48-day trip away from Oakland might count as some adversity, particularly if the team isn’t winning.
In any case, Brown and Burfict’s beef seems to be a thing of the past, at least until the pads start popping during live practices. We’ll see if the two ultra-competitive dogs start barking at each other then.