NAPA – The Raiders had an extra guy in their Thursday morning quarterback meeting.
Derek Carr, EJ Manuel and Connor Cook were the usual suspects. Peyton Manning was the new kid.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback, commonly considered among the best passers of all time, joined Raiders work as Jon Gruden's guest.
The pair have known each other a long time now, so Manning felt comfortable asking to come on in. He had a speaking engagement in San Francisco Friday and was looking for a football fix. Gruden obviously encouraged the visit, had Manning speak to the team, join a meeting and watch practice from the field.
"I'm not a coach, but I enjoy sitting in meetings," Manning said after Thursday's practice. "If they have a question about a no huddle offense or calling audibles, I'll answer as best I can. You're always paying it forward, but I let them approach me first."
Carr took full advantage of the resource.
"Absolutely. Peyton is one of my favorite all time," Carr said. "He's one of the best to ever play the game. Just to pick his mind, see some things that we think the same on, see some things that he's seen over the years that he can add to help me and my preparation and whatever we're doing on the field. I took full advantage of today, after whatever drill I would go, ‘Hey, how was communication? How was execution?' And he'd give us feedback. To have that from someone like Peyton, I think that's kind of invaluable."
Manning and Carr share an insatiable work ethic and commitment to the craft. Add Gruden to that group. The football junkie became fast friends with Manning during his time as a broadcaster. They would meet at Manning's house before Gruden broadcast one of his games, and frequently met up during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
He could tell even years ago that Gruden would return to coaching. It was a calling, and Gruden couldn't stay out forever.
"Being a football junkie, Jon and I speak the same language," Manning said. "I know he's happy, and I think it's good for football that he's back in the game."
Woodson likes Gruden 2.0
Manning wasn't the only legendary former player in attendance Thursday. Charles Woodson was in Napa promoting his wines, so he stopped by to see Gruden, Raiders owner Mark Davis and Manning.
He was asked about Gruden and noticeable differences between this camp and those when he played under the coach. One thing stood out that showed Gruden's hip with the young kids.
"Everybody's talking about Gruden being out of the game, out of touch," Woodson said. "Actually, he's not. He has a DJ out here at practice. I think he's fitting right in."
Many happy returns (to practice)
Several ailing Raiders returned to practice on Thursday. Running back Jalen Richard (calf), receiver Martavis Bryant (illness), tight end Derek Carrier and defensive end Fadol Brown returned to practice after brief stints on the shelf.
Gareon Conley (hip) and offensive tackle Brandon Parker (undisclosed) remained out, joining PUP designees Donald Penn (foot) and Eddie Vanderdoes (knee) working on the side.
Erik Harris broke a finger on Wednesday but practiced fully with the injury.
Right guard Gabe Jackson left practice early, though it's uncertain why he did. No coaches were available to the press on Thursday.
This ‘n that
Rookie receiver Marcell Ateman is adept using his big body to wall off coverage and make catches downfield, as he has done routinely during camp. …Receiver Griff Whalen had a nice one-handed touchdown catch in red-zone passing drills. …Jordy Nelson continues to shine in practice, making a few deep catches – one on a bullet thrown from Derek Carr – with the first unit most every day. …CB Antonio Hamilton had the day's only turnover, with an interception during a 7-on-7 period. …Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is quietly having a nice camp, and has bullied linemen with pads on. He cleared two guys out to allow an easy Bruce Irvin sack during pass-rush drills.