Jon Gruden: Martavis Bryant 'The White Tiger,' Khalil Mack not a distraction

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

NAPA, Calif. -- Jon Gruden ended his final media conference of his first training camp with the Oakland Raiders since 2001 with a wink and a smile Wednesday, and an obscure reference. He also spoke about Khalil Mack, Marshawn Lynch and Donald Penn.

Asked about receiver Martavis Bryant practicing after missing the previous two days with migraine headaches, Gruden pounced.

"We're calling Martavis 'The White Tiger,'" Gruden said. "I used to go to Busch Gardens in Tampa. ... You know, you go to Busch Gardens, and they got a white tiger? You go 12 times, 13 times I went to Busch Gardens and the white tiger was always in his cage. Well, the white tiger came out today. Bryant came out. I don't know if you get that analogy, but sometimes he comes out to play, and sometimes he doesn't. And it's good to see him because he's really special, like the white tiger."

Gruden laughed. Early in camp, he lamented Bryant missing practice and not being "versatile" enough as a receiver.

Earlier Wednesday, though, Gruden was more somber when asked whether Mack's holdout, which reached 20 days, was a distraction.

"I don't think it's been a distraction," Gruden said. "It's obviously, for me, been disappointing. You want to have your best player here. This guy is really a great guy, too. I'm disappointed we don't have him here. Going to try to get him here as soon as we can. In the time being, you've got to move on. You've got to get up and go to work. That's one thing I'm very proud of what we've done here."

Mack, who is due $13.846 million in this, the fifth-year option of his contract, is holding out for a contract extension.

Gruden also was asked about Lynch working out with resistance bands on his upper thighs.

"I don't think he's worn it for perhaps the entire practice," Gruden said. "He's had a really good camp. ... He has his own, I think, needs in terms of what he feels like he has to do to get ready. He's played long and hard and good enough in this league to earn that right. The problem is, we're going to have 14 more guys wearing the bands tomorrow. That's the way it usually goes."

And when Gruden was asked what went into the decision to move Penn from left tackle to the right side upon coming off the physically unable to perform list Tuesday while keeping first-round draft pick Kolton Miller at left tackle, Gruden acknowledged the progress made by the rookie.

"By no means are we done," Gruden said. "We haven't settled on any starting lineups yet. We really didn't want to disrupt Kolton's status right now without being sure where Donald, exactly, was physically. This is an opportunity to get Penn back on the field with us. Not only test the ankle, test his conditioning. Get his timing down. Get back in the channel of our offense. Then we'll address this later next week."

Then there was the hold-your-breath moment of Wednesday's practice when cornerback Gareon Conley, in just his third practice back from a hip strain, broke up a pass to Bryant and both players went down in a heap, before both got up and ran back to their respective huddles.

"You just have to hope for the best," Gruden said. "Our guys did a great job today and throughout camp maintaining a really good edict -- taking care of each other, trying to avoid piles of bodies being on the ground.

"Now that I think of it, I'm glad both of them got up."

The Raiders break camp Thursday with a short morning practice.