The Oakland Raiders are 1-0 since linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the rest of the season, but Jon Gruden isn’t over it. Even though the decision to uphold his suspension was made over a week ago, Gruden felt like he needed to make another comment about it after Wednesday’s practice.
“Losing Burfict’s big. I’m still not happy about it. Just not happy about it. We believe in player safety here, I’ll say that. We coach it, we believe in it, we really stress it. But 12 games? I’m not happy about that. I’m not happy about it. It is what it is.”
Reports were that the Raiders fought hard to get Burfict’s suspension reduced. According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, both Gruden and Derek Carr spoke at his appeal hearing. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the NFL didn’t budge. Burfict was a team captain and leader of the defense. His absence didn’t affect the team much against the Chicago Bears, but playing tougher offenses like the Green Bay Packers’ should give us a better idea of how the defense will play without him.
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The Raiders Seem Willing to Stay Put at Linebacker
Despite adding young, inexperienced linebackers Justin Philips and Dakota Allen to the roster, the Raiders seem happy to ride with Nicholas Morrow and Tahir Whitehead as the starting linebackers. There are intriguing options like Zach Brown available, but Oakland hasn’t been too keen on adding big-name players since the end of free agency.
“There’s no added stress,” said Whitehead back when Burfict first got suspended, per NBCS. “I’m comfortable doing that and getting the calls executed. I’m responsible for keeping guys on the same page, and that won’t be hard for me to do that.”
Whitehead has certainly thrived as a leader for the team as he’s the player who gets the defense pumped up before games. Pro Football Focus isn’t his biggest fan, but he’s a solid replacement for Burfict. Morrow hasn’t fared much better on PFF, but he made a few big plays against the Bears in Week 5 and should keep getting better.
Trent Brown & Tyrell Williams Miss Thursday’s Practice
It’s looking more and more possible that the Raiders could be without two of their most important offensive players for Sunday’s game versus the Green Bay Packers. Neither Tyrell Williams or Trent Brown were seen on the field for Thursday’s practice.
Jon Gruden revealed on Wednesday that Brown is suffering from a calf strain and Williams has plantar fasciitis, which is a heel-related injury. Brown’s been banged up all season, but it’d be a surprise if he doesn’t play on Sunday. However, it’s looking really unlikely that Williams will see the field. He missed Week 5’s game against the Bears and Gruden didn’t make it seem like he’s gotten much better. The Packers also have a wide receiving corps that’s been hit with injuries. Week 7 could turn into a ground-and-pound type of game really fast.