The way 2017 ended didn’t sit well with Donald Penn.
After a 2016 season that saw the Oakland Raiders return to the postseason for the first time in more than a dozen years, expectations were sky high headed into 2017, and for myriad reasons, they fell short of those expectations, eventually finishing the year with a 6-10 record, good for third in the AFC West.
In addition to the shortcomings of the team’s final record, Penn – a player with 174 career appearances to his name – also finished the year on the mend, missing the final two games of the regular season with a foot injury.
But, like the organization in general, Penn is putting 2017 behind him, and is excited to get back to work at full strength in 2018.
“I’m doing good,” Penn said when discussing his recovery. “I’ve been doing everything the doctors and trainers have asked. Everybody says I’m on track.”
The veteran left tackle also went out of his way to alleviate the fears of Raider Nation, making sure to note that the 2018 version of Donald Penn will be back to his Pro Bowl form of seasons past.
“Everything is coming along; I’m doing everything, guys,” Penn said. “I’m putting extra work. I’m doing everything they’re telling me, so I’m getting ready. I can’t wait to get this thing started next year, and I have to come back with a vengeance.”
While Penn anticipates his health and level of play being the same as it always has been, there will be one difference for No. 72 and the rest of the Raiders in 2018; Jon Gruden is now the head coach of the Silver and Black.
And while the arrival of a new coaching staff inevitably ushers in a wave of change, Penn won’t be starting from square one with the Raiders head coach; he spent the first two seasons of his career with Gruden in Tampa Bay.
“I love Coach Gruden,” Penn explained. “I started my career off with him. I know the mentality he has. I know the passion he has for football, and I told him when I talked to him, ‘you’re coming into a group, a room, of hungry dogs,’ because we didn’t like the way we ended last season, and with that coming in, with his intensity, and you can see by the excitement, the fire power in his press conferences and all this stuff.”
One of those “hungry dogs” Gruden will be working with – and Penn will be blocking for – in 2018, is veteran running back Doug Martin.
Martin is another old Buccaneer who Penn played with in Tampa, and although the Stockton-native is a few years removed from being a 1,000-yard rusher, the Raiders left tackle is confident that Martin can return to form back in the Bay Area.
“[Martin] is smart,” Penn said. “He’s always going to be in the right spot. He’s small, and tough, and strong, so he gets to hide behind us, and then he just pops out. He did that so many times in Tampa… He does a good job of finding those little creases in the hole, and breaking through them, and he does a great job. That’s another guy that has a chip on his shoulder, so I can’t wait to get him out there.”
And that Martin/Marshawn Lynch running back tandem? You better believe Penn is looking forward to seeing that in action as well.
“Beast Mode, he’s happy,” Penn explained. “I talked to him a couple of days ago. He’s happy to work with Gruden, and he’s really happy to work with his old guy Tom Cable because we got Coach Cable back… I got my boy “Oly” [Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson] back, so I’m happy. We have a lot of guys back that I know, a lot of familiar faces. Coach Cable, talking to him, and his plan coming into next year, I’m really excited.”
Whether it’s Martin, any of the team’s other additions, Penn himself or even Gruden, according to No. 72, there’s one constant that binds them all together; they all have a chip on their shoulder.
“Everybody, this whole team, we have big chips on our shoulders,” he said. “So when guys have chips on their shoulders, they’re going to come out fighting, so I’m excited.”
The Raiders Offseason Workout Program begins in early-April.