LAS VEGAS — Raiders players offered defense, indifference and a no comment on Sunday when it came to coach Jon Gruden and his 10-year-old inflammatory emails that came to light over the weekend. And Gruden again apologized for his language, including a racist comment, in the missives.
Gruden and his players spoke in the wake of the Raiders’ 20-9 loss to the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas’ second straight lackluster defeat after opening 3-0.
“I’ve been around this guy for three years now; I’ve never felt a certain type of way about him,” Raiders running back Josh Jacobs said of Gruden, who drafted him in the first round out of Alabama in 2019.
“He’s never rubbed me a certain way, that type of way. I mean, what he said is what he said at the end of the day too. But I mean, I definitely trust him. I mean, it was 10 years ago. People grow.”
Gruden addressed the players in a Friday morning meeting, letting them know that an article was coming out in The Wall Street Journal reporting that he, then working for ESPN as the lead analyst on Monday Night Football, had emailed then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen and said NFL Players Association president DeMaurice Smith, who is Black, had “lips the size of michellin tires” in 2011. Gruden also made a vulgar comment about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Gruden later told ESPN he used the term “rubber lips” to describe someone he saw as lying and that he was frustrated by the lockout at the time and failed negotiations between Smith and Goodell.
Raiders linebacker Denzel Perryman, who joined the Raiders in a Sept. 1 trade with the Carolina Panthers, said Sunday, “I let it go as soon as we walked out of the meeting room. I wasn’t focused on that. Still not focused on it. So, I mean, I don’t know what he said. I could care less, honestly. I don’t know how many years ago it was, but my main focus this week was on the Bears, not whatever he had going on.”
Asked specifically about how Black players on the team were feeling, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who signed with the Raiders as a free agent this spring, said, “No comment on that.”
Gruden, meanwhile, said he had not had any contact with the NFL about the emails.
“All I can say is I’m not a racist,” Gruden said. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am, what I’ve done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks I had. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. … I’m not like that at all. But I apologize.”
Asked whether he expected to hear from the league, Gruden said he would wait to see what happens in the next few days.
“I can’t remember a lot of the things that transpired 10 or 12 years ago, but I stand here in front of everybody apologizing,” Gruden said. “I don’t have an ounce of racism in me. I’m a guy that takes pride in leading people together. And I’ll continue to do that the rest of my life. And, again, I apologize to De Smith and anybody out there I have offended.”
Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr said the team rallied around Gruden after Friday’s meeting.
“Us as a team, we’re like, ‘Yeah, Coach, it was 10 years ago. We love you, man. We got your back,'” Carr said. “We’re just trying to be there to support Coach. I know it’s a hard time for him. … He told us, ‘Men, learn from my mistake.’ When we left that meeting, we didn’t take it as how it came out.”
Carr, though, acknowledged he could see how the emails would offend and the “hurt” the words have caused.
“I love everybody,” Carr said. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body. And I don’t believe that Coach does, either. I really don’t.”
Jacobs was asked whether this situation could cause Gruden to lose the locker room.
“I don’t think so,” Jacobs said. “All the guys, we all kind of talked about how we felt about it and how [Gruden] treats the players. He’s a players’ coach. So, everybody was kind of like … just overanalyzing it. I don’t think it’s going to affect it, because our guys, we’re led by each other.
“The coaches, yeah, they call the plays and everything; but at the end of the day, we are led by each other. So, I don’t think it affected guys too much.”