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Jon Gruden aims to help restart Nathan Peterman's career

By Matt Schneidman, San Jose Mercury News

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Jon Gruden wants to make sure you understand Nathan Peterman is just a practice-squad quarterback.

The Raiders mainly signed him because Derek Carr’s backup, A.J. McCarron, is in Alabama with his wife, who gave birth to Cash McCarron on Tuesday. In McCarron’s place, Peterman will run scout team as the Raiders prepare for Monday Night Football against the Broncos.

“Not quite sure when he’s going to be back,” Gruden said of McCarron. “That leaves us with one quarterback. We’re happy to have Nate Peterman, a guy that’s played in this league this season. He was an opening day starter. We signed him to the practice squad. We’ll see where that leads us. Hopefully A.J. and his family are happy and healthy and he can get back here soon. But in the time being, Peterman has a lot to learn quick.”

Even if McCarron returns in time to back Carr up against the Broncos, Gruden doesn’t want Peterman’s Oakland stint to only last a couple days. Peterman has been somewhat of an NFL laughingstock the past two seasons for his interception tendencies, especially for a five-interception first half against the Chargers last season. In eight career games with the Bills since they took him in the 2017 fifth round, Peterman has thrown three touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing just 52.3% of his passes. Only two quarterbacks since the 1970 merger have more pass attempts than Peterman and a lower quarterback rating than his paltry 32.5 mark.

Yet Gruden loved Peterman coming out of Pittsburgh, and he hopes a change in scenery and staff can steer the 24-year-old’s career back on track.

“There’s a good chance of that,” Gruden said when asked if Peterman will stay on the roster when McCarron returns. “Hopefully we can take him into the offseason program, see if we can restart him and get him going.”

Peterman started for the Bills in Week 1 this season, but that ended up being only one of two starts for him in 2018. He threw one touchdown and seven interceptions in four games – not all the interceptions were entirely his fault – and the Bills waived him on Nov. 12. Peterman had been unemployed until Wednesday, when the Raiders signed him after a workout.

“It’s great to be here and there are some things in the offense that are similar to things I have done in the past,” Peterman told reporters on Thursday before practice. ” … Gruden is obviously a master at what he does. I am just here to watch, learn and do whatever they need.”

What about the perception that Peterman is a terrible quarterback not worthy of a job?

In Peterman’s final collegiate regular season game, his Pittsburgh team put up 76 points on Syracuse. Peterman threw for four touchdowns and ran for one, but that offensive explosion hasn’t yet surfaced at the next level (granted NFL defense aren’t like that 2016 Syracuse one). Gruden, still emphasizing that Peterman isn’t even on the 53-man roster, mentioned a Peterman-led Pittsburgh upset of then-No. 2 Clemson in 2016, at Clemson, the eventual national champions.

Maybe Peterman won’t re-discover that magic in Oakland, but anything better than his Buffalo days would suffice.

“I know what kind of kid he is and what kind of worker he is,” Gruden said. “I like what he did at Pitt. They beat Clemson. I like what he did in that game, at Clemson. He showed some real savvy and some real pocket presence. He’s an athletic guy. I know he’s had some problems in Buffalo, but again we’re talking about our practice squad quarterback here.”

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