Raiders camp report: Jon Gruden's 'white tiger' returns to practice


NAPA – The Raiders got Martavis Bryant back to practice Wednesday after two days away dealing with headaches. The explosive receiver primarily worked with the third unit during team drills as he continues to mesh with Jon Gruden’s system.

The Raiders head coach prefers his receivers learn every position and route in the tree, something that comes with steady reps and scheme study. Gruden also likes his players available and grinding with teammates through the dregs of training camp.

Bryant missed practice with illness last week and two straight sessions to start this one while reportedly dealing with migraines. Those headaches can be debilitating for sure.

Gruden wants his players working out as much as possible, and had a funny way of expressing the point.

“We’re calling Martavis the white tiger,” Gruden said. “I used to go to Busch Gardens in Tampa. We call (receiver Joey) Galloway the white tiger in Tampa. You go to Busch Gardens and they’ve got a white tiger. You go 12 times or 13 times, the white tiger was always in his cage. But the white tiger came out today. Bryant came out.

“I don’t know if you get that analogy, but sometimes he comes out to play and sometimes he doesn’t. It’s good to see him because he’s really special, like the white tiger. It’s late in the day here.”

Three things: 1. Gruden can be pretty funny. 2. He wants Bryant participating more. 3. He knows Bryant is a special talent.

While the draft day acquisition hasn’t wowed in training camp, expect him to having a prominent role in the Raiders offense. His speed is invaluable, and big-play ability rare. Bryant hasn’t spoken to the media since he was traded from Pittsburgh for a third-round pick, but said then he wants to be known as a complete receiver. There’s plenty of time to prove he’s capable of that. Quarterback Derek Carr said there’s a sense of urgency to his preparation, and receivers coach Edgar Bennett is well known as a solid teacher, who can help Bryant along the way. ,

Gruden on Penn trying right tackle

Donald Penn is trying a new position, working at right tackle in two practices since coming off the physically unable to perform list. It’s an experiment at this stage, to see if Penn can move across the line. It also keeps first-round rookie Kolton Miller working on the left, but the Raiders are still tinkering with offensive line arrangement as the preseason wears along.

“We haven’t settled on any starting lineups yet,” Gruden said. “We really didn’t want to disrupt Kolton’s status right now without being sure where Donald exactly was physically. This is an opportunity to get Penn back on the field with us. Not only to test the ankle, test his conditioning, but to get his timing down and get back in the channel of our offense. Then we’ll address this later next week.”

Battle in the slot

Receiver Griff Whalen has been working with the first-unit offense since Friday’s exhibition against Detroit, manning the slot of Ryan Switzer. He’s also heavily involved in return duties, which will be key deciding roster spots on the back end of the receiver depth chart.

“Well it’s very competitive situation,” Gruden said. “(Whalen and Switzer are) neck-and-neck. As you said, special teams will have a big part of that, but also shear production. You have to be able to go in there and make plays. You have to be able to go in there and block linebackers sometimes and big safeties. You have to know a lot of assignments because Derek [Carr] is going to change the play at the last second. It’s neck and neck with those guys.”

Seth Roberts returned to action on Wednesday, and Gruden maintains he’s in the mix working inside as well.

Injury update

Cornerback Daryl Worley returned to work after a Monday collision with Rashaan Melvin, but was limited to individual drills. Seth Roberts and Bryant also returned to practice.

Gruden said didn’t have an update on Obi Melifonwu’s continued absence with a lower body injury – he reportedly saw a specialist on Wednesday – but said an update could come next week when the team returns to Alameda.

Marcus Gilchrist, Breno Giacomini remain out of work. Jon Feliciano joined them after leaving Tuesday’s practice early. Jared Cook was given a veteran rest day.

Eddy Pineiro left practice early on Wednesday for an unknown reason and did not return. Mike Nugent kicked during this practice, which included several hurried (by design) field goal attempts.

This ‘n that

The Raiders claimed defensive tackle Gabe Wright off waivers from Miami. He was released after getting into an altercation with a teammate. He came after Kenyon Drake during practice while the Miami running back wasn’t wearing a helmet. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin was placed on injured reserve in a corresponding move. … WR Keon Hatcher made an excellent catch, reaching up to grab a deep pass from Connor Cook with Shareece Wright draped all over him. …Gareon Conley had excellent coverage to break up a pass intended for Maratvis Bryant, proving a recent hip injury hasn’t impacted the cornerback’s speed. …Quarterback EJ Manuel has struggled mightily with the quarterback-center exchange. He lost a fumbled snap in last week’s game against Detroit, and has done so several times in camp. He had one Wednesday, right after being inserted with the second team over Cook. … The Raiders conducted a lighter practice without pads, one that remained intense in temp and rep count.

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