Donald Penn: Khalil Mack trade took 'a toll on guys'


Jon Gruden's sell-off of key Raiders in 2018 didn't just stun the public -- it shocked the Raiders, too.

Veteran tackle Donald Penn said as much during a Wednesday appearance on NFL Total Access.

"No matter what nobody says, we tried to overcome it. But when you trade your best player away in the beginning of the year, it takes a toll on guys," Penn told NFL Network's Lindsey Rhodes. "Whether they say it or not. We fought through it. We tried to stay together. It was a tough season.

"Khalil Mack is one of my good friends. I'm happy he did what he did. But I knew kind of when I saw Aaron Donald sign that deal I kind of knew in the back of my head that we weren't going to be able to sign Khalil cause all the money he was going to ask for. I knew what [Jon] Gruden was coming from cause I might know different cause I been in the league for so long. I know it's a business."

Mack's trade to Chicago netted him a new, $141 million contract with the Bears, a number the Raiders were unwilling to match. Penn attempted to explain how not paying Mack would help the Raiders with cap space and in the upcoming draft, but it started to sound a little too much like he was giving the company line.

"And this year we have all these draft picks. We have all this cap room," Penn explained. "If we would've signed Khalil we might not have that. I understand kind of why he traded [Amari] Cooper away, too, cause now we have another draft pick and we have more cap room cause Cooper would've had to get signed this offseason. And, it's not my decision. My decision, I would've kept Coop. I love Coop. That's my boy.

"But at the end of the day I've been in the league for 13 years," Penn said. "I know [it's] a business. That's a business decision that's made. I'm behind Gruden. Guys are behind Gruden. We're ready to get to work and turn this thing around."

The salary cap point is true, though, as the Raiders look to rebuild into a contender. Their time to spend is not now; then again, it's not every day you draft and develop an All-Pro edge rusher and punt on the opportunity to retain him in the prime of his career.

As Penn said, he's behind Gruden. It seems as if the 2018 season was spent shifting the tone of the organization toward one that falls in line with Gruden's plan. That extends to how people perceive the quarterback situation, which isn't as it might seem, according to Penn.

"I'd be shocked if something like that happened," Penn said of a potential trade involving Carr. "Their relationship is so good. They work together so well. Derek Carr makes a mistake at practice, he's correcting Gruden before Gruden even has a chance to correct him sometimes. They're on sync like that. It's pretty neat to watch."

So if everything is fine, where's this notion coming from?

"Because of the perception of Gruden," Penn explained. "Gruden is the type of coach, he's going to get on you. He's going to yell at you. He's going to cuss at you. He's going to tell you when you're wrong. But when you're right, he's going to be the first one there to praise you and tell you when you're right. But at the end of the day they just want to show us stuff.

"I don't care who you are. You're not going to go through the season smiling at your coach all year. I get mad at Gruden sometimes. It happens. Gruden gets mad at me sometimes. It happens. At the end of the day, we're grown-ups. They know it's a bigger picture to win and to bring a championship to the Raiders. And at the end of the day they're going to work together. They're going to have misunderstandings. But at the end of the day, we're going to come back together. And I've never seen anything where I thought it would be anything different than them coming back together."

The sun is shining on the Raiders in Oakland, or wherever they might play this season. To that point, Penn said the players aren't concerned with where they'll play. And it sounds as if they expect to have a much better go of things in 2019, their second season under Gruden.