Raiders’ Jon Gruden, Dwayne Harris ace test of NFL rulebook

Updated December 3, 2018 - 10:36 pm

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Raiders wide receiver Dwayne Harris forced a penalty Sunday because he knows the rules.

Coach Jon Gruden lost a timeout, he said Monday, because he knowingly broke them.

Harris displayed situational awareness during a 40-33 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, stepping out of bounds when fielding a first-quarter kickoff. His presence of mind provided the offense a possession at its own 40-yard line. Late in the seccond quarter, Gruden challenged a play in a decision that could be construed as a friendly poke to the NFL’s review headquarters in New York City.

Gruden had all three timeouts at the time. Seven seconds remained in the half.

His challenge-that-wasn’t pertained to a touchdown reception. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sprinted right upon fielding a shotgun snap and found tight end Travis Kelce on an out route for a 6-yard score. The Raiders had a legitimate gripe when questioning whether the ball touched the ground before Kelce completed the reception, given he scooped the pass while falling to the ground.

The league automatically reviews any play inside the final two minutes of a half and all scoring plays throughout a game. So technically, there were two reasons the play was not subject to a coach’s challenge.

Gruden knew this.

The CBS broadcast captures him, after throwing a red challenge flag, clasping his hands together and telling an official, “Timeout. That ball hit the ground.”

In his Monday news conference Gruden raised the situation when asked whether he has a sense when wide receiver Martavis Bryant will return. Bryant missed the past three games because of knee ligament damage.

“I have no sense, common sense or sense on Bryant,” Gruden said. “I lack sense. I threw a challenge flag with seven seconds left (Sunday). I knew exactly what I was doing, by the way. It wasn’t a very sensible thing to do, but I wanted to challenge (head of officiating) Al Riveron in New York City to look at it because I have people in the press box telling me that’s not a catch.

”Seeing plays overturned by somebody you can’t even see, I thought with three timeouts and seven seconds left I’d use one of my timeouts by giving Al a little extra time to look at that play. I knew exactly what I was doing.”

A bit earlier, so did Harris.

Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker executed a directional kickoff that Harris allowed to land at the 4-yard line. A series of scenarios played out in his mind, Harris said Monday, before he ultimately stepped out of bounds and claimed possession of the football at the 1-yard line while the kickoff coverage unit approached. Because he gained possession while out of bounds before the kickoff reached the end zone, a penalty for illegal kickoff was enforced against Butker.

Harris said that Raiders special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia showed him a similar play this year.

Although he couldn’t say for certain, he believed it was from 2016 involving then-Green Bay Packers running back Ty Montgomery. Regardless, the lesson stuck. It was the first time in Harris’ NFL career he downed a kickoff out of bounds.

“At first, I thought it was going to go out of bounds,” said Harris, who also played for Bisaccia in 2013-14 with the Dallas Cowboys. “It didn’t do that, so then I thought it was going to roll into the end zone. Then I said, ‘It might stop,’ so then I just stepped my foot out of bounds so it established possession out of bounds. Before it went into the end zone, I just grabbed it. … (Bisaccia) knows that I know most of the rules going on out there. That’s why the puts me out there. In case something happens, he knows I know what to do.

“Just being aware of the rules. A lot of people don’t take notice of the rule changes, what rules are coming in and what’s coming out.”

Gruden and Harris knew the rules Sunday.

They acted accordingly.

More Raiders: Follow online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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