Jon Gruden, Derek Carr downplay sideline spat, insist 'everything's good'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Both Jon Gruden and Derek Carr insisted the heated conversation between coach and quarterback late in the first half of the Oakland Raiders' 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was not their first such discussion.

Nor will it be the last.

What was different this time, though, was that the exchange was caught on camera, and that tight end Lee Smith played peacemaker, of sorts, by putting a hand on the back of Gruden's neck in an effort to calm the situation.

Gruden got after Carr after he missed Jalen Richard badly down the right sideline on a third-down pass.

"That's the first time you've seen it," Gruden said with an impish grin, "but it isn't the first time it's happened. We're both competitors. We're competing hard there. We had a man-to-man situation and he went for the big play.

"We had a mild disagreement. But you know what, that's part of this business. We're going to have times where we clash a little bit but we're also very supportive of one another. I'm really proud of him. He's been through a lot this year, and I'm glad he's our quarterback."

A storyline coming into the season revolved around how Carr would adapt to the notoriously-hard-on-his-quarterbacks Gruden. But Gruden has made a point to pump Carr up with positivity at every turn.

That's what made the sideline exchange in Week 11 so unique.

Still, Carr said he was "surprised" it took this long for cameras to catch them getting after it on the sidelines.

"We're both very fiery -- a lot of people don't see that in me, all the time -- we're both competitive," Carr said. "A minor disagreement on something and the beautiful thing is, when we do that, it's not a demeaning thing or pointing a finger. We're both yelling the same kind of thing, almost: 'Let's fix it!'

"Everything's good, I promise."

Carr completed 19 of 31 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona but was sacked four times. It was his 15th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter of his career as the Raiders improved to 2-8.

The sideline show also brought to mind memorable blowups between Gruden and Rich Gannon in Gruden's first tour in Oakland, which lasted from 1998 through 2001. Gannon joined the Raiders in 1999, and while he became a league MVP the year after Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay, Gannon has said his best years in the NFL were with Gruden.

"He wants everything to be so perfect," Carr said. "This stretch of games, we're just trying to get on the same page, every play … every detail.

"We're just learning each other. And again, no one wants to hear it, but it is a process. It takes time. The beautiful thing about that, people saw that [sideline spat] happen and then we went down and we won the game. We still communicated and we hugged it out."

Carr later said he was joking that they actually embraced, but Smith did get physical, so to speak.

Because after the cameras went back to the game, Raiders radio sideline reporter Chris Townsend reported that the conversation between Gruden and Carr resumed and got more heated. It lasted for the duration of Oakland's defensive series and Smith, a close friend of Carr, "grabbed" Gruden by the back of the neck in an effort to diffuse the situation, Townsend reported.

Asked if Smith was a "peacemaker" on the team, Gruden smiled.

"Is that how it looked?" Gruden laughed. "I can handle my own business."

Smith said he was not trying to be a peacemaker, though.

"It was just, I happened to be in the vicinity and I saw the wild man's face red," Smith joked of Gruden, "so I figured I'd join the party.

"Coach Gruden's a wild man, he's a lot of fun to be around, so I told him, the way he's going to go to the grave is having a stroke on the sideline. It was all in fun. It was all good. There was no intent to be angry at anybody. It was just our head coach and our quarterback were being competitive. ... They're the two most important people on the team."

All three said there were no lingering issues.

"I probably shouldn't have grabbed the head coach," Smith said, "but I got a little fired up. But it was all in good fun. No negativity at all."