As much as he tries to downplay the significance Broncos Game Jerseys , Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden is fully aware Friday's exhibition game against the Detroit Lions will be anything but an ordinary preseason contest.
It's been 17 years since Gruden last roamed the sidelines at the Coliseum with the Raiders. He came back in 2004 with Tampa Bay and again in 2012 as a television analyst.
Gruden's iconic status among Raiders fans promises to make this time different. Much, much different.
"I am looking forward to it," Gruden said Wednesday after the second of two joint practices with the Lions. "I'm looking forward to it big-time. I've got some things obviously I've got to work out. So I've got to work myself through calling plays again and managing some tough situations. I'm anxious to see if I can do it."
Gruden developed a cult-like following during his first stint as the Raiders coach from 1998-2001. Those feelings didn't wane when Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay by late owner Al Davis and only strengthened when the coach went into the television booth.
Gruden showed his appreciation in 2009 while in town to broadcast a San Francisco 49ers game when he held a party at Ricky's, a Raiders sports bar not far from the Coliseum.
Gruden held another party at Ricky's three weeks ago to celebrate his return and paid for dinner and soft drinks for the fans. About 600 people showed up.
"It's an honor to be here and it's a great story, but I also just want to do everything I can in order to try and help this team win again," Gruden said. "I love the Raider fans. I love Oakland and that's the primary reason I'm standing here."
Lions coach Matt Patricia developed a friendship with Gruden while he was defensive coordinator in New England and the Raiders coach was working at ESPN.
Gruden's return, Patricia said, is good for the NFL.
"If you meet with him, you're gonna find a guy that absolutely loves football from its core, all the way out, every aspect of it," Patricia said. "He loves to coach and I think he loves to be around the players. I think it's great for the game. I think it's great for the Raiders organization."
The rest of the storyline around Friday's game is fairly antiseptic.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of Oakland's starters will only play a series or two, with the majority of playing time being doled out to the rookies and fringe players on the roster.
"This game is not about Derek Carr Patriots Game Jerseys , not yet," Gruden said. "It's about finding the right 53 men, and I think you saw it today, we've got a lot of contenders. There are a lot of guys that have put themselves on the brink of making this football team and we've got to make sure we give them every opportunity to showcase their skills."
Notes: Former Raiders Warren Sapp and James Jones attended practice, along with ex-Lions coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. . LT Donald Penn continues to rehab from offseason foot surgery and is getting closer to getting back on the field. "Our trainer is pleased with the progress that he's made," Gruden said. "Hopefully that time is soon."
鈥?Teddy Bridgewater refused to think about the possibility of never playing football again.Not when he was clutching his mangled left leg and screaming in pain. Not during the nearly two years of intense rehabilitation that followed.Bridgewater made it back from a gruesome knee injury in August 2016 to throw two passes in a game late last season for the Minnesota Vikings. Still on the comeback trail, the 25-year-old quarterback is now with the New York Jets and eager for his next opportunity.“I’m not going to give a percentage or anything,” Bridgewater said of his health during a conference call Wednesday, “but I do believe that I’ll be able to perform at a high level.”Speaking to reporters for the first time since signing a one-year deal with the Jets, he declined to give details about the status of his knee while simply saying, “I’m feeling good.” Bridgewater also said he’s “not comfortable” discussing whether he thought he’d be a full participant during organized team activities and minicamp this spring. Those conversations, he said, have to be done first with the Jets’ coaches and trainers.“I’m very confident Eagles Markus Wheaton Jersey ,” he said of regaining his form. “I’m confident in myself, confident in the athletic training staff and the coaching staff here, that they can eventually get me back to the player that I once was. At the same time, we’re only in March and the only way to get better is to put the work in now. I’m excited about this opportunity that I have to not only be a Jet, but to work with the group of guys on this team, with the staff that’s here.“I just can’t wait. I’m excited.”Bridgewater was a first-round draft pick out of Louisville in 2014 and was selected to the Pro Bowl after his second season with the Vikings. But during a practice the following summer, he suffered a non-contact injury in which he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and dislocated the knee joint. It sidelined Bridgewater for essentially two full seasons, other than those two passes 鈥?one was intercepted 鈥?he threw for the Vikings late in a 34-7 win over Cincinnati on Dec. 17.“There was never any doubt in my mind that I would get to that point again,” Bridgewater said. “When I first stepped on that field for the first time last year, it was a great feeling to just know that everything, all the hard work that I put in, all the time and dedication that everyone who was involved in me overcoming what I overcame, it was just a great feeling.“It was very rewarding to not only myself Kentavius Street Jersey 49ers , but everyone who was involved in everything that I went through.”Minnesota moved on from Bridgewater this offseason, allowing him to become a free agent while signing Kirk Cousins to a massive deal to be the Vikings’ new starting quarterback. It was a quiet ending to what Bridgewater hopes is just the first chapter of his NFL career.“Right now, I have to continue to just focus on the present,” Bridgewater said. “I can’t look back. I enjoyed my time there, the fans are awesome and everyone there was top of the line, but I have to focus on the now and prepare myself for this upcoming season.”Bridgewater joined the Jets because he said he liked the direction they are heading. His deal is worth $6 million, with a maximum value of $15 million with incentives, but includes just $500,000 in guaranteed money. In essence, Bridgewater is gambling on himself to show New York 鈥?and other NFL teams 鈥?that he can be at least close to the quarterback he was before the injury.“It isn’t about proving to the people who counted you out or doubted you,” Bridgewater said. “It’s about proving to the people who believed in you and showing them that, hey, your prayers Youth Korey Toomer Jersey , your belief, it all paid off.”Where Bridgewater will ultimately fit in the Jets’ plans is uncertain. They re-signed Josh McCown, the starter last season, to a one-year deal and he’s expected to enter the offseason program at No. 1 on the team’s depth chart. But while Bridgewater was on the call with reporters, Jets team brass was attending USC quarterback Sam Darnold’s pro day in Los Angeles.New York traded up from No. 6 in this year’s draft to acquire Indianapolis’ pick at third overall. That means the Jets are likely focused on selecting one of the top quarterbacks available. They are attending the pro day for Wyoming’s Josh Allen later this week and have a workout scheduled with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield on Saturday.“Being a quarterback or just being an athlete, the ultimate competitor, as a player, I love competition,” Bridgewater said, “because it not only makes you better but it makes the team better.”.