Last week, Josh Jacobs sat in Head Coach Jon Gruden's office and pleaded with him to play against the Tennessee Titans, but the coaching staff said no.
The talented rookie running back missed practice all last week with a shoulder injury he's been battling since Week 7, but he was determined to make it on the field Sunday; however, preserving his health was more important, so DeAndré Washington and Jalen Richard suited up in his stead.
Just a few days in advance of the team's next game – a Week 15 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacobs addressed the media on Friday and fielded questions regarding his injury. He told them that surgery wasn't a likely possibility, he'd just have to play through the pain and rest at the end of the season — as a 21-year-old I think he's earned the respect of the locker room.
"I mean, the biggest thing was just feeling like I let the team down and things like that," Jacobs told reporters. "Obviously, being a competitor, you don't like watching [from the sideline], but the running back group help it down."
When asked about potentially reinsuring his shoulder he added, "It's football, you know what I'm saying? Like, you can say it can't get worse, but then anything can happen. You never know, but I know it's something I won't need to have surgery on, so that's a positive note."
Knowing that the injury could get worse if he decided to suit up, Jacobs still took the field Week 15 against the Jaguars anyway. He rushed 24 times for 89 yards and added two receptions for 20 yards, surpassing 100 scrimmage yards for the ninth time this season.
Few players have done what Jacobs has this year, and he's doing it as a rookie, and he's injured. His toughness has been a topic of discussion all year long and it was apparent once again during the final game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Jacobs averaged a gritty 3.7 yards per carry and took several punishing hits to the shoulder. There were times he looked to be in pain on the sideline, but he finished the game under his own will.
"I can't say enough about the guts of our team," Head Coach Jon Gruden said postgame. "We've been through a lot. It's been a really fun season to see some of these young players grow up. We've lost several of them unfortunately, but Jacobs is the real deal, and he's going to get better."
Jacobs is well on his way to becoming the Offensive Rookie of the Year if he can continue to fight through the pain, but the individual accolades don't mean much to the rookie. The former member of the University of Alabama wants to see the team succeed, and if that means he has to tolerate a fractured shoulder then so be it.
Despite the loss to the Jags, Jacobs continues to demonstrate the kind of grit and toughness Coach Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock want to become the new norm of Raiders football. As Gruden said, Jacobs is the real deal and he'll continue to improve as time goes on, but he's proved to the coaches, fans, and players around the league he's going to shy away from anything, especially contact.