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Witten excited to work with detail-oriented Gruden: 'I've had a lot of respect for him from afar'

Jason Witten has played for some noteworthy coaches during his 16 seasons in the NFL, including Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, but none possess the personality of Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden.

Through the years, Witten has respected his new head coach from afar, playing against him when he was the head coach in Tampa Bay, but he got to know a little more about Gruden when he joined some of his former colleagues in the Monday Night Football booth in 2018.

"Obviously, know his offensive mind and how he goes about it — I've had a lot of respect for him from afar," Witten told reporters Monday. "[I] had the opportunity to go in the Monday Night [Football] booth and a lot of the people he worked with shared their experiences, and I've had a couple of conversations with Coach [Gruden] about that," he added with a smile.

Whether it's on the air or on the field, Coach Gruden always brings a unique level of tenacity, but beyond that, Witten has noticed his professionalism and the ability to clearly articulate his expectations for the team.

Even at 38, the Raiders have high expectations for Witten this season and need him to serve as more than just a mentor. For the first time in years, Witten is being asked to learn a new playbook, which he says has been fun to review with the detail-oriented Gruden.

"Now, coming in here, he's a great coach," he said. "He brings the juice every day, he's a great communicator and lays out the expectations for his team. How he's handling COVID in the meetings has been very upfront and professional. He has high standards for what he wants and it's been really neat for me to dive in there and learn a new system of offense, and the process that he goes through of the offensive scheme and what it entails."

With a young roster of players, NFL pundits expect the Raiders to take a step forward in 2020, but Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock knew that seasoned veterans would be an important piece of making that happen.

It once seemed inconceivable to think Witten would ever leave the Dallas Cowboys, and the opportunity to return was a possibility, but the role presented to him by Mayock and Gruden was the right move for him at this point of his career.

"This was a unique opportunity for me as well to come here and I'm invigorated by this challenge, and where I'm at in my career," Witten said. "It made a lot of sense from a fit and a role, and the presence that I could have. I really didn't overthink it, it was just a great opportunity to go in and compete, and I'm very fortunate for that."

Witten recognizes that the Raiders are building something special in Las Vegas with Gruden at the helm, and after respecting him from afar for so many years, he's excited to work with him up close.

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