As much as he tries to downplay the significance Antonio Morrison Jersey , Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden is fully aware Friday's exhibition game against the Detroit Lions will be anything but an ordinary preseason contest.
It's been 17 years since Gruden last roamed the sidelines at the Coliseum with the Raiders. He came back in 2004 with Tampa Bay and again in 2012 as a television analyst.
Gruden's iconic status among Raiders fans promises to make this time different. Much, much different.
"I am looking forward to it," Gruden said Wednesday after the second of two joint practices with the Lions. "I'm looking forward to it big-time. I've got some things obviously I've got to work out. So I've got to work myself through calling plays again and managing some tough situations. I'm anxious to see if I can do it."
Gruden developed a cult-like following during his first stint as the Raiders coach from 1998-2001. Those feelings didn't wane when Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay by late owner Al Davis and only strengthened when the coach went into the television booth.
Gruden showed his appreciation in 2009 while in town to broadcast a San Francisco 49ers game when he held a party at Ricky's, a Raiders sports bar not far from the Coliseum.
Gruden held another party at Ricky's three weeks ago to celebrate his return and paid for dinner and soft drinks for the fans. About 600 people showed up.
"It's an honor to be here and it's a great story, but I also just want to do everything I can in order to try and help this team win again," Gruden said. "I love the Raider fans. I love Oakland and that's the primary reason I'm standing here."
Lions coach Matt Patricia developed a friendship with Gruden while he was defensive coordinator in New England and the Raiders coach was working at ESPN.
"If you meet with him, you're gonna find a guy that absolutely loves football from its core, all the way out, every aspect of it," Patricia said. "He loves to coach and I think he loves to be around the players. I think it's great for the game. I think it's great for the Raiders organization."
The rest of the storyline around Friday's game is fairly antiseptic.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of Oakland's starters will only play a series or two Terrell Owens Jersey , with the majority of playing time being doled out to the rookies and fringe players on the roster.
"This game is not about Derek Carr, not yet," Gruden said. "It's about finding the right 53 men, and I think you saw it today, we've got a lot of contenders. There are a lot of guys that have put themselves on the brink of making this football team and we've got to make sure we give them every opportunity to showcase their skills."
Notes: Former Raiders Warren Sapp and James Jones attended practice, along with ex-Lions coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. . LT Donald Penn continues to rehab from offseason foot surgery and is getting closer to getting back on the field. "Our trainer is pleased with the progress that he's made Lamar Miller Jersey ," Gruden said. "Hopefully that time is soon." The wife of Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen says she has Alzheimer's, a disease which led her husband to give up control of the team four years ago.
In an announcement Wednesday, Annabel Bowlen said she wanted to make her diagnosis public right away to help raise awareness about others dealing with the disease.
"I feel that it is important for people to know that those in my situation do not need to completely withdraw from their daily activities," Annabel Bowlen said in a statement released through the team. "Based on my own experience with Pat, there will still be many joyous and rewarding moments for me as well as my family and friends.
"I intend to proceed in life with the same strength, courage and endurance that Pat has shown in his battle with this disease. Like Pat Ka'imi Fairbairn Jersey , I know there will be good days and bad days ahead."
Her five children said in a statement that they have been inspired by the strength and courage she has shown while supporting their father. The statement says they're confident she will bring "the same grace, compassion and determination to her fight."
The team was placed in a trust when Pat Bowlen stepped down in 2014 because of Alzheimer's. The trust is overseen by three people, including team president and CEO Joe Ellis. .