Before the Raiders run their first play or go through any on-field drills, Jon Gruden wants his players to get stronger and in better condition.
That, he says, is the focus of this first phase of the offseason program for his new team, which began Monday.
Gruden, beginning his second stint as head coach of the Raiders, is putting his players into the hands of new strength and conditioning coach Tom Shaw. He says Shaw’s hiring could be one of the most significant moves.
“We got a new program downstairs, totally different than what has been going on there,” Gruden told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com of the weight-room work. “Six years with the New England Patriots. He was with Bobby Bowden in the glory years at Florida State. He was with the New Orleans Saints. What I saw down there from him, the way he was handling young players, veteran players, major league baseball players, that was something I wanted. He was my No. 1 hire. That guy touches the whole roster, all the time.”
Not only does Gruden believe that work with Shaw will turn Raiders into better players, but he’s hoping they also will become better conditioned so they can avoid injuries. When he was hired, Gruden pointed to several players as being question marks, because they just haven’t been able to stay healthy and make the impact the team had hoped.
“We need some young people in the organization, right now, to emerge, and a lot of them have been injured,” said Gruden earlier this offseason. “Jihad Ward, I don’t know what happened to him. Obi Melifonwu, Gareon Conley, we need these guys to play, big time, so I’m going to start with that. …”