Sports

Promising start for Gruden Part II as Raiders beat Lions


OAKLAND — It was almost perfect.

The Raiders first possession with Jon Gruden calling plays at the Coliseum opened with two short completions and a 60-yard power run for an apparent touchdown by Marshawn Lynch.

As is often the case in early August, the Raiders couldn’t pull off the storybook beginning Friday night in a 16-10 exhibition win over the Detroit Lions. Rookie left tackle Kolton Miller was called for holding, essentially wiping out the first drive.

“I was really ticked off after that play was called back,” Gruden said. “I just got to the stadium. I’d just called my (third) play. Chucky came out for a brief moment tonight.”

In truth, “Chucky,” the Gruden alter ego named after the doll in the 1988 slasher movie, appeared to come out less than in his previous incarnation. He flashed his wicked look a time or three, but at age 54 Gruden appears to be internalizing a little more than he used to.

It should be noted, however, that Cindy Gruden, Jon’s wife, laughed out loud when that theory was suggested to her following the game.

As much as Gruden is looking to put tales of the 1998 through 2001 seasons behind him, the coach looked almost humbled during pregame and said as much afterward.

“It was awesome. I saw some recognizable faces that had gotten a little bit older,” Gruden said. “Saw some old friends that mean a lot to me. This is a great responsibility. The nostalgia’s worn off. We’ve got to do something with this opportunity. But it was sure great to see the Raider fans.”

Gruden’s first trip on to the field since Jan. 12, 2002 (a 38-24 playoff win over the Jets) came at 6:30 p.m. with many fans still filing in.

A classic rock fan to the core, Gruden’s sound track on the stadium P.A. system started with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” as he stopped and posed for photos wit Cindy and sons Michael and Jayson as the lyrics “been a long time” echoed in the background.

Next up was Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle,” as Gruden made his way to conversations with general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis. As players went through stretching, Gruden walked among them as is his custom, reminding them of areas on which to focus.

The starting lineup, in another throwback move, was introduced coming out of the Black Hole area in the south end zone rather than a straight shot from the tunnel to the field. Gruden got big cheers when the stadium announcer welcomed him back to the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum (although, oddly, wide receiver Jordy Nelson matched him in terms of decibel level).

As much as Gruden wants to put all nostalgia talk aside, and as calm and cool as he looked as he took the field for the first time, one of his closest friends indicated otherwise.

Asked if Gruden was fired up, Jeff Leonardo, his longtime driver, said, “That would be the understatement of the year.”

Leonardo, observing the pregame scene on the field, was relieved …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

      

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