NFL Notes: Gruden introduced as Raiders coach

The Sports Xchange

January 09, 2018 at 8:05 pm.

Jan 9, 2018; Alameda, CA, USA; Jon Gruden is introduced as head coach at a press conference at the Oakland Raiders headquarters Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 9, 2018; Alameda, CA, USA; Jon Gruden is introduced as head coach at a press conference at the Oakland Raiders headquarters Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gruden was officially introduced as the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, and he admitted he never thought he’d back on the sideline in the Bay Area.

Gruden left the broadcast booth at ESPN to return to the franchise where he spent his first four seasons as a head coach, posting a 38-26 regular-season record (40-28 overall) from 1998 to 2001 and guiding the team to two playoff berths, including a berths in the AFC Championship Game in his last two seasons.

Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay in 2003 and proceeded to guide the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship in his first season. Overall, he is 95-81 in 11 regular seasons and 100-85 including the postseason.

Gruden succeeds Jack Del Rio, who was fired after a season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that capped a disappointing 6-10 campaign for the Raiders.

–Cornerback Logan Ryan was among three players who sat out practice for the Tennessee Titans.

Running back DeMarco Murray (knee) and Quinton Spain (back) also missed practice as the Titans began preparations for Saturday’s visit to the top-seeded New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round.

Ryan missed practice because of an ankle injury, and his absence was noteworthy for reasons beyond his health issue — he spent the previous four seasons with the Patriots before joining Tennessee as a free agent in March 2017.

Ryan had 13 interceptions in his four seasons with New England but did not pick off a pass with Tennessee.

–Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones sat out practice with what amounts to a maintenance day.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn made the announcement during his Tuesday morning appearance on 92.9 The Game.

The Falcons have been limiting Jones’ practices throughout the season in order to keep him fresh for game action. Sixth-seeded Atlanta hopes to have the wideout at the top of his game on Saturday when it visits the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

Jones, who was listed with ankle and rib injuries last week, reeled in nine receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ 26-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams. He had 88 catches for 1,444 yards this season, marking the fourth straight campaign he amassed at least 1,400 receiving yards.

–Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, and right guard Zack Martin had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last week.

Martin’s surgery will cause him to miss the Pro Bowl, but both players are expected to be ready for offseason workouts.

Martin is entering the final year of his five-year rookie contract, and he is scheduled to make $9.3 million in 2018. The injury is not expected to affect any contract talks. Martin has not missed a game in his four seasons in the NFL.

Collins started all 16 games for the Cowboys this past season and had 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Collins had similar surgery on his right foot before his rookie season of 2016, but he started 14 of 16 games that year.

Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is also expected to miss the Pro Bowl after a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee put him on injured reserve to end the season.

Smith missed three games because of injuries.

–Patriots head coach Bill Belichick attempted to shift the discussion away from reports and focus the attention on his team’s upcoming AFC divisional round game against the Tennessee Titans.

That hasn’t been the focus in recent days, however, as rumors surrounding a possible departure for Belichick swirled following a recent ESPN report citing unnamed sources detailing a growing rift between the head coach, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft. According to the report, Belichick was furious and demoralized when Kraft sided with Brady on the decision to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers.

After saying he hadn’t read the article and had nothing to add to it on Monday, Belichick was on the receiving end of Titans-related questions to begin Tuesday’s press conference. He was asked about quarterback Marcus Mariota, a 2015 game against Tennessee, as well as Logan Ryan and Jurrell Casey, among others.

— Brady refuted an ESPN The Magazine story that said he “seemed liberated” after the Patriots traded backup Garoppolo.

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote that “some players and staffers noticed that Brady seemed especially excited, hollering and cajoling.”

Brady took issue with that statement on Tuesday during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI’s Kirk and Callahan Show.

“I think that’s just such a poor characterization of anything. In 18 years, I’ve never celebrated when someone has been traded, been cut,” the 40-year-old Brady said. “I would say that’s disappointing to hear that someone would express that, or a writer would express that, because it’s so far from what my beliefs are about my teammates.”

Brady also dismissed the notion of preventing Garoppolo from working with personal trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero.

–The Carolina Panthers fired offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey.

The news comes one day after head coach Ron Rivera told reporters that he didn’t expect any changes to the staff unless someone opts to take a job elsewhere.

Carolina’s offense has failed to find its rhythm after leading the league in scoring in 2015. The Panthers finished 19th in total offense (323.7 yards per game) and 28th in passing (192.3) during the past regular season.

Shula spent seven seasons with the Panthers, working his first two in 2011-12 as the team’s quarterbacks coach. He became Carolina’s offensive coordinator in 2013.

Dorsey has served as Carolina’s quarterbacks coach from 2013 to 2017 after two seasons as a pro scout for the team.

–Cornerback A.J. Bouye heard Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell reporters that he wanted the rematch with the Jacksonville Jaguars in a bid to atone for his five-interception game in Week 5.

While Roethlisberger got his wish with Sunday afternoon’s AFC divisional round game at Heinz Field, Bouye offered some words of his own.

“Be careful what you wish for,” the 26-year-old Bouye told The Florida Times-Union on Monday, one day after the Jaguars posted a 10-3 win over the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card game.

“This is what he wanted, so this is what he is going to get.”

–New York Giants safety Landon Collins has changed his tune on cornerback Eli Apple, two weeks after referring to his teammate as a “cancer.”

Although Collins told the New York Post he hasn’t spoken to Apple since a meeting with interim coach Steve Spagnuolo in the final week of the season, he believes the two can work together.

“My relationship can be repaired with him,” Collins told the newspaper of Apple. “Our relationship can be mended. I don’t know what his mindset is right now. He’s kind of all over the place right now. You can see that with his Twitter rant.

“We got to have an understanding why he’s playing football, because you got to be playing football to be one of the best players, not to be on the team and blowing your opportunity.”

–Matt Nagy called his new job a “dream” during his official introduction as the head coach of the Chicago Bears.

The 39-year-old Nagy arrives in the Windy City after spending five years with the Kansas City Chiefs, serving as offensive coordinator this past season.

A former Arena Football League player who previously served as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2008 to 2012, Nagy said he plans to call the plays himself in his first head coaching job.

While the Chiefs finished sixth in points (25.9) and fifth in total offense (375.4 yards) in 2017, Nagy inherits a Chicago offense that ranked 29th in points (16.5) and 30th in total offense (287.4).

–Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane said there might have been a “misunderstanding” between Bills guard Richie Incognito and Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue that led the Jaguars defensive end to accuse Incognito of using racial slurs during Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game.

Beane said Incognito is “trying to reach out” to Ngakoue, presumably in an attempt to clear up that misunderstanding.

The Bills’ first-year general manager also said the team is looking into the accusation that came hours after the Jaguars’ 10-3 win. The NFL is on record as doing the same.

–Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster as an injury replacement for Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins.

Landry led the NFL with a career-high 112 receptions but came up 13 yards shy of reaching 1,000 for the third consecutive season.

It marked the third straight Pro Bowl selection for Landry, who has 400 receptions in his four seasons.

Hopkins led the league with 13 touchdowns receptions. He had 96 catches and finished fourth in the league with 1,378 yards.

–The Kansas City Chiefs elevated running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to offensive coordinator.

The move came just a few hours after the Chicago Bears introduced Matt Nagy as their new head coach. Nagy spent the past five years with the Chiefs, serving as offensive coordinator this past season.

The 48-year-old Bieniemy has been in charge of the Kansas City running backs since 2013. A former running back who played nine seasons in the NFL, Bieniemy had some experience calling plays for two seasons (2011-12) at the University of Colorado, where he starred as a player.

Bieniemy also served as running backs coach with the Minnesota Vikings for five seasons (2006-10), overseeing one of the league’s top ground games.

–Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay promoted Zac Taylor from assistant wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, replacing Greg Olson, who was officially named the offensive coordinator of the Raiders.

Taylor originally joined Los Angeles as a member of McVay’s inaugural staff in January 2016. He is now entering his sixth season coaching in the NFL and second with the Rams.

Before joining the Rams, Taylor held offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coaching responsibilities at the University of Cincinnati (2016) and the Miami Dolphins (2012-15

–Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh decided to stay in-house and promoted Don “Wink” Martindale to defensive coordinator.

Baltimore had an opening because Dean Pees decided to retire hours after the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. Martindale’s name immediately surfaced as a potential successor.

Martindale, 54, joined the Ravens in 2014 and served as linebackers coach from 2016 to 2017 and inside linebackers coach from 2012 to 2015.

In addition to Martindale, Harbaugh promoted Mike Macdonald to linebackers coach and Sterling Lucas to quality control-defense.