NaVorro Bowman: Jon Gruden 'understands' the game of football

Schefter: 'Gruden will be the next coach of the Raiders' (1:31)

Adam Schefter joins SVP and says the Raiders wouldn't fire Jack Del Rio without being convinced they can land Jon Gruden as head coach. (1:31)

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The prospect of Jon Gruden returning to the Oakland Raiders to replace the fired Jack Del Rio hung over the team facility as players cleaned out their lockers on Monday.

And with Gruden out of coaching since 2008, do the Raiders think of him more as the guy on ESPN's Monday Night Football or as the Super Bowl-winning coach known as "Chucky"?

"The guy on Monday Night Football," said kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, with a laugh. "Though I did run into him in the elevator at the [team] hotel in Philadelphia. So I hope I made a good first impression."

Defensive end James Cowser concurred, though he said he realized Gruden was on TV because of what he accomplished as a coach.

Then there was this from rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes: "When I think of Gruden, I think of Gruden Grinders. First thing I thought was, 'Oh, I guess we're a bunch of Gruden Grinders now.'

"My whole hometown [of Auburn, California] is Raiders fans, so Jon Gruden has always been a name around the house. So that will be interesting."

With no head coach in place, and a staff reportedly granted permission to seek employment elsewhere, there were no exit meetings for players on New Year's Day. Rather, players simply came in for exit physicals and to clean out their lockers. Meanwhile, veterans who were around on Monday obviously knew more about Gruden's coaching acumen, even as Jon Condo, Reggie Nelson, Justin Ellis and NaVorro Bowman are all pending free agents.

Condo, who has been in Oakland since 2006, has been down the Gruden road before.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Condo said of Gruden returning to Oakland. "From all the reports and previous years, he may do it, he may not. It looks like he is but I don't know. It'll be interesting to see him back on the sideline.

"I've met him a couple times but I don't know what he's like as a coach. I know what he's done 15 years ago. It'll be interesting to see. He's been a part of the game and stuff like that. He knows the game. I don't know."

Nelson, who seemed resigned to not being brought back to Oakland after two seasons and a Pro Bowl appearance, called Gruden a "great coach" even if he never played for him and faced him only once, as a rookie in 2007.

"I mean, whoever they bring in, they have a great team here," Nelson said. "I loved all my teammates here. Everybody was a pro and stuff. Whoever they bring in has a great team they're coming to. There's a lot of athletes, young guys, eager to play football and want to play football."

Said defensive tackle Justin Ellis: "He knows the game, for sure. He's for sure like a mastermind of this game. It would be an honor."

Bowman joined the Raiders in mid-October after being cut by the San Francisco 49ers and immediately started at middle linebacker.

Bowman, who turns 30 on March 28, was open to returning to Oakland and had a thought, or two, on Gruden.

"It's exciting," Bowman said. "You know what he's done in the past. You know that he understands the game of football, both sides. He's studied the quarterback position inside and out. He's a guy that is a well-known critic in this game and coach as well. I look forward to seeing what happens."