Oakland now, Las Vegas next.
When the Oakland Raiders break in a fresh crop of players at a rookie minicamp this weekend, an elephant on the field undoubtedly will represent the franchise’s move next year to Sin City.
“For the record, we asked 112 kids if they’d be okay on the Vegas strip or was it going to be a problem?” new Raiders GM Mike Mayock disclosed recently of the team’s interview process for the 2019 NFL draft. “All 112 said, ‘No, coach, we’ll be fine.’
“We didn’t find one guy that admitted that Vegas would be an issue. So, they all lied to us.”
Mayock’s punchline came with wishful caution. The future in Las Vegas and the franchise’s final season in the Bay Area will be a recurring theme throughout the year, attached to the mission of trying to revive a sagging franchise. The Raiders maintained that the situation underscored a premium on maturity and leadership for a draft class christened with three first-round picks — defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and safety Johnathan Abram — viewed as building blocks.
Josh Jacobs was one of three first-round picks for the Raiders. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
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It’s apparently not too early to grasp expectations that extend beyond learning the playbook — and into future years.
“This franchise is moving to Las Vegas. It’s very, very challenging,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said during the draft. “You’ve got to have a lot of maturity. We wanted guys that weren’t only great football players and talents, but guys that can handle the circumstances of being frontline players, leaders and also have a lot of maturity to handle the move of a franchise.
“You’re going to have to move — not only to California. You’re going to have to move to Las Vegas and you’ll have to adapt. It’s a tough league to play in to start with, so we did a lot of work on their character, and Mayock and I truly believe that that’s the winning edge in all the great players that we’ve been around.”
That principle will surely be put to the test in due time.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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