ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Questions abounded when Jon Gruden left ESPN's Monday Night Football booth to return to coaching the Oakland Raiders in January.
Had the game passed him by after nine seasons in the media?
How would the deeply religious Derek Carr react to the notoriously foulmouthed Gruden when he would inevitably go off on the quarterback?
Could the decidedly old-school Gruden mesh with today's new jack athletes and the purported entitled personas that come with them?
It turns out, here as the Raiders get into Week 2 of organized team activities and head into the stretch run of Gruden's first offseason program, the players also wondered aloud about their new coach and, well, his beverage of choice.
"Man, I don't know how many cups of coffee he drinks every morning, but he's up there on it, man," tight end Jared Cook said with a laugh. "That's for sure. He definitely brings the intensity."
Carr had a thought.
"That man has like 20 cups of coffee, I guess, because he has another level that he takes it to," Carr said, "and he hasn't stopped yet."
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"Have you all seen Jon Gruden?" defensive end Bruce Irvin said with a laugh when asked how intense the coach was in practice. "What you see is what you get. Rah-rah guy. I've never seen a person's face stay red for seven periods at practice."
Cue more laughter.
"The whole practice he was just red. He's a great motivator," Irvin continued. "The biggest thing for me that I got out of him, the guy has been out [of coaching] for eight or nine years. Back when he was coaching, it was the old CBA [collective bargaining agreement]. Two-a-days were allowed. Tackling at OTAs was allowed then. So, I think the biggest thing was for him to adjust to [was] guys, because it's millennial babies now. It's not like older guys anymore.
"I'm not talking down on anybody, but football is different now. I think he's done a great job of adjusting to the new CBA and taking care of his guys and letting his leaders control the locker room."
Leaders like Irvin. Which begs the question: How has Irvin adjusted to Gruden's in-your-face style of coaching?
"He talks s--- like I talk s---, so we get along," Irvin said. "We've got a great relationship. He speaks his mind, I speak my mind. I come to work, he comes to work. You couldn't ask to work with a [better] person like that. A guy who is football, football, football. That's all it's about -- winning and football. That's the type of coach you want in the building."
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who was Carr's coordinator his rookie year, also worked on Gruden's staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. Olson sees the same guy ... almost.
"The passion is unmatched," Olson said. "You'd think that maybe it'd slow down over 10 years.
"If anything, maybe it's even stronger now. His will to win. His will to prepare. His will to present. Just every day, the energy that he brings to the staff and to me, to the team, it's Jon Gruden. It's who he is. That's been real fun to be around."
Now, an OTA practice is not the same as say, training camp, or even preseason or when the games count. But Gruden seems to have touched a nerve with his players.
In a good way.
Because while many will continue to wonder until the season begins if the game is now beyond him because of his time in the television booth, there is a growing segment of onlookers who think Gruden might actually be more prepared than ever because of his TV time. That has everything to do with all the behind-the-scenes access afforded him and the endless film study he had to do in covering the entire NFL.
No, Gruden is not showing highlights of his TV career to the team. But running back Doug Martin, one of the numerous, older free-agent vets brought in by Gruden this offseason, talked of how Gruden stays engaged with players. And not just on the field with his chirping and barking and lauding.
In meetings, when it's easy for a player to "doze off and go into your own world," Martin said Gruden has the players randomly knock on their desks to stay alert.
"He's just on our tails," Martin said. "He'll ask us questions. He'll make us knock. He'll do that every two seconds, 'Knock if you're with me.' And we all have to do that just to make sure that we're all awake. Call us out. He pays very close attention to us."
Cook concurred, saying Gruden is bringing his energy from the field into the meetings.
"It's definitely intense," Cook said. "He really makes you like football again. It's enjoyable, because it's not too much of bashing you or beating you up. He understands what you're going through, and he makes it fun, man. It's not all about learn, learn, learn, beat you down, beat you down. He's trying to teach you something and take you somewhere that you've never been before.
"He definitely has guys buying in. I mean, I bought in for sure, because he knows what he's talking about and you can tell the difference in a coach that knows what he's talking about and a coach that does not. He knows what he's talking about."