Black Hole, sweet Black Hole? Raiders return home after six-week road trip

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jon Gruden joked that after this experience, he could become a travel agent.

The Oakland Raiders' coach also cracked that he was going to commemorate being home this weekend by taking his wife Cindy to dinner Friday night.

"I kind of miss her," he said.

And Gruden was at his sarcastic best when describing the logistics of a five-games-in-six-weeks road trip from hell.

"I hope they do it to everybody in our division next year," Gruden snarled. "I think everybody should have an opportunity to go on the road for six weeks. Somebody had a great idea for us to do it, I think everybody ought to do it next year.

"Honestly, it was tough. It was tough because they weren't close trips. They were overseas trips, they were across-the-country trips, every one of them."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a similar stretch, having not played at home since Sept. 22 and not playing at Raymond James Stadium again until Nov. 10 (with a London "home game" in the middle of trips to Los Angeles, New Orleans, Tennessee and Seattle). They will not have traveled as far as Oakland, though, due to being located in the Southeast.

Consider: the Raiders had a 3,156 roundtrip jaunt to and from Minneapolis in Week 3, went 1,933 miles to Indianapolis in Week 4 and then flew 3,996 miles to London to "play host" to the Chicago Bears in Week 5. The trip home from across the Atlantic Ocean and the continental United States was a robust 5,392 miles.

Then, after their bye week, the Raiders went 1,825 miles to Green Bay (and 1,825 miles home) before going 1,642 miles each way to and from Houston last weekend.

In all, the Raiders have traveled 21,411 miles since their last true home game (the Buccaneers will have flown approximately 17,078 miles). For reference, it takes 24,901 miles to circumnavigate the Earth at the equator. Hey, at least they travel via charter. And the Raiders used the time away -- they spent the entire week in England -- to bond.

"This is probably the closest group I've ever been around, including the year when we went to the playoffs (2016)," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. "This group, it's a special group, very young, exciting group. Very good if you're talking about laying a foundation for something. A very good group to have, vets, young vets and rookies included. It's going to be a good group here for a long time. There won't be as much turnover as the years keep going on, that's for sure. You have some guys that are going to stick and stay, that's for sure."

The Raiders sprinkled in two wins in that five-game trip, setting them up nicely at 3-4 for a three-game homestand before they have to leave town again.

It all starts Sunday, as the Raiders will play host to the 3-3-1 Detroit Lions at the Oakland Coliseum, their first game in the Black Hole since Sept. 15. Yes, the baseball dirt infield is long gone so it will be all grass for the home team, which will then face the 3-5 Los Angeles Chargers on a short week next Thursday and then the winless Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 17.

How long has it been since the Raiders played a game in the Coliseum, and how much has the roster changed since they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2?

Ten players on the Raiders' current 53-man roster have never played a regular-season home game in Oakland -- linebacker Will Compton, receiver Trevor Davis, quarterback Mike Glennon, left guard Richie Incognito, receiver Zay Jones, quarterback DeShone Kizer, cornerback Nevin Lawson, center Erik Magnuson, linebacker Brandon Marshall and defensive tackle Terrell McClain.

Incognito, mind you, has played a regular-season game in the Coliseum before ... as a visitor.

Incognito recalled his Buffalo Bills scoring a touchdown on a run in 2016 and celebrating in the south end zone, next to the Black Hole.

"There was just everything being launched at us from the stands, bottles and hats and everything," he said with a laugh. "It felt good back then, you know, putting it on the Black Hole. Now, we want to play well and score a bunch of points, get those guys rowdy."

That's exactly what Carr expects.

"Oh, it's going to be rowdy, I know that," he said. "I think our fans miss us, and I think we miss them. We need a home game. We need to see each other, that's for sure. We miss one another. I can't wait to see our fans when I come running out the tunnel. There's nothing like it."