CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden got a good chance to see Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley up close when he coached him in the Senior Bowl in January and liked what he saw of him then and now.
Finley and the Bengals play at the Raiders on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and WKRC-TV, Local 12 will televise.
Finley, a rookie fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State, will be making just his second career start in that game. In his first start in last Sunday's 49-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens he compiled 16 of 30 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 66.9 and also ran five times for 22 yards. The interception he threw was returned 89 yards for a touchdown and he also lost a fumble while being sacked and the fumble was returned for a touchdown.
None of that changed Gruden's opinion of Finley.
"Greg Olson, who is our offensive coordinator, and I really liked him (during the Senior Bowl, which was played on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala,)," Gruden said during a conference call with Cincinnati area media. "He's got a real good football mind. He had a lot of playing experience at North Carolina State. He's more athletic than you think. He's an accurate passer. He's tough. He can make tight window throws. We have a lot of respect for Finley and I know they're not going to treat him like a rookie. They're going to ask him to do a lot of things and he's capable of doing it."
Finley said he enjoyed the week he played for Gruden at the Senior Bowl.
"“He was awesome," said Finley. "It’s going to be really fun to play against him. He has a lot of juice. That was a really good time."
GRUDEN GOES TO BAT FOR SUSPENDED BURFICT AGAIN: Just a couple of days after Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was handed a 12-game, season-ending suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle, Gruden made it clear how unfair he thought the suspension was and reiterated that displeasure when asked why the Raiders opted to sign the troubled former Bengals player.
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther coached Burfict with the Bengals from 2012-17 and Raiders linebackers David Lippincott served as assistant linebackers/quality control coach for the Bengals from 2012-17.
"He was a good addition," said Gruden. "We have (David) Lippincott here, who coached him in Cincinnati and Guenther was the (Bengals defensive coordinator) coordinator so I don't know how much more intelligence I can have. I'm not happy about what the league did to him. I'm not happy at all. I'm really appalled by it and ticked off by it, but what can I do? I've got a lot of respect for what Burfict did coming in here. He was elected team captain by every man on our team. He played very, very well. He had a helmet-to-helmet contact play and was thrown out of the league for 12 games - unprecedented in NFL history - and I'm not happy about it."
Gruden was asked if he did enough vetting of Burfict, who was fined or suspended 13 times by the NFL while with the Bengals for dirty play.
"I have two coaches that coached him that have a lot more contact with him than I had," said Gruden. "He came in here and did exactly what we asked him to do and what has happened to him is unprecedented in the history of football and I hope some day we can get a chance to coach him again."
PRATT LIKELY TO SEE INCREASED ROLE: After the Bengals waived veteran linebacker Preston Brown on Tuesday it only stands to reason that rookie third-round pick Germaine Pratt will see more action than he has all season against Oakland and will likely continue to play a big role as the season progresses.
Pratt actually started last Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens in place of Brown, but played only 50 percent of the defensive snaps as he continued to struggle with consistency. Brown played a season-low 34.8 percent the snaps.
"It's the consistency of the details of the professional game that he's still working on," said Bengals first-year linebackers coach Tem Lukabu. "There's a feel part of it you have to get used to, there's the timing and the spacing of the pro game that he's still learning for sure. It's a matter of putting it all together."
Pratt playing 50 percent of the defensive snaps was a season-high from a percentage standpoint, while the 23 defensive snaps he played was the second-most in a game this season, topped only by 30 defensive snaps he played at Baltimore on Oct. 13.
"It's earned, it's not given," said Lukabu. "He's doing all the things we're asking him to do. The last part of it you still have to show is production. We're just not going to put you out there just for the helluva it. He's improving, but there's a lot of room from improvement. There are some things at times where he hasn't seen it or it didn't click in for him. It's not an excuse we have to get it done."
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said he is looking for someone at the linebacker position to step up and start making plays and is hopeful Pratt can be that guy.
"With all of these young players, you’re going to see some positives and some things they need to improve on," said Taylor. "He had a good tackle early in the game when he ran a play down on the Baltimore sidelines. It’s the consistency from these young guys that needs to take place over the course of the game. From the consistency, you can become a leader. It’s not one or the other. You can’t say things and then not do them. You need to be able to do them, and then guys will respect that and follow you. We just need some consistency from those guys at that position."
BENGALS PRACTICE PARTICIPATION REPORT: Wide receiver John Ross did not participate in Thursday's practice due to the flu, and Taylor said he won't be around the team because of it.
Ross was just cleared to practice on Wednesday when he was reinstated from the injured reserve list after being out since suffering a sternoclavicular injury against Pittsburgh on Sept. 30. He does not count on the 53-player roster yet as he can't play in a game until the Dec. 8 game at Cleveland so the team doesn't have him on the practice participation report because of that.
Here is the practice participation/injury report for the Thursday:
Atkins being on the injured list is new. He was a full participant on Wednesday.
Taylor said on Wednesday that Sample won't play against Oakland.
Erickson didn't practice on Wednesday, but he took some reps on Thursday and looked good, according to Taylor. Erickson suffered his injury in this past Sunday's game against Baltimore.
Kirkpatrick hasn't practiced since getting hurt in the Oct. 13 game at Baltimore.
RAIDERS PRACTICE PARTICIPATION REPORT: Here is the Raiders practice participation/injury report for Thursday: