After Thursday’s disastrous loss to the 49ers in the final Battle of the Bay, Raiders coach Jon Gruden once again suggested that big changes will be coming in the offseason to a team that currently consists of players who at times don’t seem to be all that interested in being members of the Silver and Black.
“I see players after every game we play that want to be Raiders,” Gruden told reporters after the 34-3 debacle in Santa Clara. “That’s been the case my whole life. And I think the brand of the Raiders is an exciting one, and I think a lot of players no doubt do want to play for us in the future. And I’m not gonna speculate any further on that.”
Gruden previously told Howie Long of FOX that players are “dying” to join the Raiders.
“I’m not gonna get into who calls me and who texts me,” Gruden told reporters on Thursday night. “I’ve made a lot of friends in this business over the years. . . . I’m just trying to get people excited about the Oakland Raiders. The Oakland Raiders is a great organization. I know it’s not looking pretty right now. But I’ve heard a lot of negativity over the last six or seven months, and rightfully so. But we’re gonna build a championship football team here, and I know a lot of people as players as fans and in general want to be a part of this.”
Gruden is treading into dangerous territory by talking so openly about players, presumably under contract with other teams, who are telling Gruden that they want to play for the Raiders. Even if Gruden isn’t initiating the discussions — which clearly would amount to tampering — any attempt by a player whose rights are held by another team to tell Gruden that they want to play for the Raiders requires the Raiders to immediately notify those players’ current teams that such unsolicited comments have been made.
While the league rarely investigates instances of tampering (possibly since it happens fairly regularly), Gruden may give the league no choice but to demand that he surrender his cell phone and/or emails for inspection as to whether players who are under contract with other teams have been reaching out to him to express a desire to join the Raiders. If that is indeed happening (as Gruden openly admits it is), the Raiders have a clear duty under the league’s tampering policy to not stand silent and wait for nature to take its course.
Gruden already has mentioned it twice this week. He’d be wise to quit talking about it now. And the league would be wise to start asking pointed questions about the basis for the claims he’s making, because such communications necessarily undermine the current contractual relationship between those players and the teams that employ them.