In Oakland, veteran Bruce Irvin finds smack-talking, kindred spirit in Jon Gruden

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You could say these are bright times for Bruce Irvin, who has had his share of dark days in his life.

Since the end of last season, he has earned a degree, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college, made a much-desired position switch from outside linebacker to defensive end and maybe, just maybe, found a kindred spirit in returning Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

“He talks s— like I talk s—, so we get along,” Irvin said.

Irvin came to Oakland as a free agent in 2016 after four star-crossed seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, which included an eight-sack rookie season, a Super Bowl championship and another trip to the Super Bowl.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Initially an edge-rusher, Irvin made the switch to outside linebacker despite his concerns that he was not “smart enough” to play in coverages. Ken Norton Jr., then his position coach in Seattle and later his defensive coordinator in Oakland, admonished his pupil, telling him to never admit such a thing.

Besides, Norton told Irvin, he was capable of playing linebacker.10

The Raiders were obviously impressed enough to sign Irvin to a four-year deal worth a max of $37 million and $12.5 million fully guaranteed to make him a bookend pass-rusher with All-Pro Khalil Mack.

Irvin’s presence helped Mack become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 as Oakland went 12-4 and appeared in the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.

The team regressed badly under Jack Del Rio in 2017, going 6-10 before Del Rio was shown the door. Gruden agreed to return to Oakland with an eye on Irvin and his skill set.

Enter new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who worked Irvin out at West Virginia and wanted the Cincinnati Bengals to draft him before the Seahawks struck at No. 15 overall in 2012.

“I knew he was a really gifted rusher,” Guenther said. “… Just coming here, I thought his best assets for us was to go forward rather than go backwards. He’s done a good job with what we’re asking him to do in the base fronts.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“Obviously, we know what he can do as a pass-rusher. Hopefully, we can get him over a double-digit [sack] mark this year. That’s the goal for him.”