NFL Draft class of 1998, stand up.
It's not often that you have a Heisman Trophy finalist roaming the sidelines of a training camp practice, but two – including the winner of said award – in the house at the same time?
Come on, that hardly ever happens, but such was the case for the Oakland Raiders Thursday afternoon as both Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson were on hand to watch Head Coach Jon Gruden and his team go about their business.
The pair of future Hall of Famers were on hand at the team's Napa Valley training complex as invited guests of Gruden, but they were far from just spectators, as Manning actually sat in meetings with Derek Carr and the rest of the quarterbacks Thursday morning, and was unquestionably an active participant in the day's on-field session.
"Being a free agent, you kind of have an open invite to a lot of different facilities, and Jon and I go back a long, long way, and coached me back in the Pro Bowl back in 2000, and formed a friendship then, and we've stayed in touch since his time coaching, and certainly at ESPN," said Manning. "And of course, [quarterbacks coach] Brian Callahan was with me in Denver, and the Raiders just hired one of my longtime friends and my video guy at Tennessee, Joe Harrington, as their new video guy. Fun to see some old friends, but also enjoy watching some guys work, and learning some new things."
Highly regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, the former Denver Broncos' quarterback was asked his thoughts about the Silver and Black's signal-caller, and count Manning as a fan of No. 4.
"I really like Derek," Manning explained. "I've just known him a little bit from playing against him, but Jon let me sit in the quarterback meetings this morning, and you can tell he loves it, and he's very engaged, and obviously trying to learn a new system, which is a challenge, but one thing about Jon Gruden, he loves football, and so everybody playing for him better love it too, and when your quarterback loves it, like you can tell Carr does, it shows."
He went on, "I pull for quarterbacks. It's a unique fraternity. I think the NFL needs good quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks, and they have a really good one in Derek, that's for sure."
As Manning said, he was indeed in meetings Thursday with Carr and the rest of the Raiders' quarterbacks, so how does he deal with administering wisdom to the next group of gunslingers?
Does he seek the quarterbacks out, or does he just sit back and wait for them to approach him?
"If they have a question, I've never considered myself a coach, but I guess [you're] always kind of paying it forward, so if somebody has a question about a no-huddle offense, or calling audibles, yeah, I'm going to add," Manning said. "I enjoy helping out young guys if they have a question, but I kind of let them approach me first."
Manning has one of the most distinguished careers in NFL history. From his multiple Super Bowl wins, to his numerous Pro Bowl appearances, "The Sheriff" has seen a lot of football, and is still incredibly well connected, but above all, Manning remains a fan of the game, and knows that with Jon Gruden back in the fold, there's something special added back into the mix.
"It's great for football that he's back in it," Manning said. "I think Jon, just his passion for it shows, he wears it on his sleeve, and players will respond to that."
No new additions to the injury list which is a good thing; in fact, we had a few guys make their return to practice.
Tight end Derek Carrier returned to the field Thursday after missing yesterday's session, as did wide receiver Martavis Bryant. After recovering from a calf injury, running back Jalen Richard also got back to work today as well.
In terms of guys who were unable to go today; like I said, no real updates, as tackle Donald Penn, defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, and cornerback Gareon Conley continued to work on the side.
Rookie tackle Brandon Parker also didn't participate in Thursday's session.
-Busy day today, Raider Nation, busy day. As I said above, not only were Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning in the house, but so was NFL Films, who had Head Coach Jon Gruden wired for sound. I can't wait until that footage comes out, I'm sure it'll be endlessly entertaining.
-The Raiders worked on a defensive drill this morning where the safety came over the top and simulated hitting a receiver coming across the middle of the field. Let me say this, even though the team's defensive backs weren't actually tackling anyone, it became abundantly clear that Karl Joseph can lay the boom when he feels like it. No. 42 covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and was certainly running with a purpose.
-Connor Cook and Pharaoh Brown enjoyed a nice connection Thursday when the third-year quarterback lofted out a ball that No. 81 caught in stride over a pair of defenders. The former Oregon Duck certainly has all the physical tools to be an NFL tight end, and it was good to see him show off those assets a little bit Thursday.
-Chris Warren III is an intriguing guy to keep an eye on. The man is built like a linebacker, but is really light on his feet, and Thursday we saw that firsthand as the University of Texas product lowered his shoulder and gained some nice YAC on a few occasions. There's a bit of a logjam at the running back position, but I'll be excited to see what No. 34 does throughout the preseason.
-No surprise here, but there was more work on situational football in Thursday's practice; in today's situation, the defense worked on end-of-game scenarios, where they essentially had to defend one Hail Mary attempt from the offense. I'll tell you one thing, Coach Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther are leaving no stone unturned this training camp.
-Marcell Ateman has enjoyed a strong few days on the field, and Thursday was no exception to that rule, as the athletic rookie made yet another impressive sideline grab. We've said Ateman's name a lot as of late, and I think it's fair to say that No. 88 has been one of the most pleasant surprises of camp thus far.
"Karl is my guy. We had three years together at West Virginia and ended up coming into the NFL at the same time. He got me acclimated to everything even though he had a few weeks in front of me with the coaches, he let me know what they expect. Being able to come in and make the transition with him was very helpful." -cornerback Daryl Worley on his relationship with safety Karl Joseph.
The Lighter Side:
Following practice, Peyton Manning went through a workout at the team's Napa Valley Training Complex. First of all, the man is still putting up weight, and I have to say, it was pretty wild seeing the former Denver Broncos quarterback working out alongside members of the Silver and Black.
What a world.
Head Coach Jon Gruden and Co. are back on the field tomorrow morning, and will then return to the field Saturday afternoon before their off day Sunday.