To say Foster Moreau’s ears perked up when Raiders head coach Jon Gruden recently compared him to Rob Gronkowski is an understatement. But probably not for the reasons many might suspect.

Granted, anytime a young tight end gets compared to one of the greatest to ever do it it’s quite the honor. Moreau is also wise enough to understand it probably means he’s on track to play more as he approaches his third year with the Raiders.

That is music to any player’s ear.

The reality is, there were also financial implications to Gruden’s compliment. See, there is a running and costly joke within the Raiders tight end room going back to Moreau’s rookie season in 2019. Anytime he gets compared to Gronkowski, it’s time for him to go to the bank and withdraw some cash.

“My ears do perk up a little bit when he says Gronk, only because I know I’m going to get a $10 fine in the tight end room,” said Moreau. “Which is kind of funny.”

All jokes — and fines — aside, Moreau knows Gruden has big plans for him this year.

“Coach has been very honest and forthright about what he wants my role to be on this football team,” Moreau said. “He wants to get me snaps. He wants to get me on the field. He wants me to go produce.”

That production will come primarily as a blocker in the run game “because we are a run team first,” Moreau said. “That is the Raiders. That is our identity. We run the ball. And that’s where I need to make my niche on this team.”

But as his playing time increases, Moreau said “the more opportunities I’ll get to produce in stat categories as well.”

His expanded role is the result of a couple of different dynamics. First, Moreau is completely healthy after spending part of last year working his way back from the nasty knee injury he suffered late in his rookie season.

“He’s bigger. He’s faster. He’s stronger,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “And we have real high expectations for him this season.”

Also, Jason Witten, who the Raiders signed last year to help offset whatever time Moreau needed to get back to full strength, is no longer on the team.

That means more snaps and potentially more production from Moreau after he caught just seven passes for 140 years and two touchdowns last season. It was a step back from his rookie season when he had 21 catches and five touchdowns, but somewhat expected given the circumstances,

“I’m excited” about the possibilities, said Moreau, who takes umbrage at the notion that Witten’s presence stunted his growth last year, arguing the help and guidance the future Hall of Famer provided completely negated whatever snaps he may have taken away from him.

As Moreau explained, it’s rare when someone gets a chance to spend valuable time with a player they grew up idolizing.

“For me, that was always Jason,” Moreau said. “When I found out the news that he was going to come with us, I was shocked. But I was probably shocked in the best of ways. Imagine the chance to get to spend a year with your idol? It was an incredible opportunity for me. Jason was very open about sharing his experiences in this industry.”

Often those interactions would come in impromptu skull sessions.

“There were definitely times where Whit would sit you down. And it would be you and him on a whiteboard,” Moreau said. “Just kind of after a meeting, if you had some spare time and he was talking ball. You just sat around and you listened. That was obviously the best way to learn.”

The more they got to know each another, the more Moreau found himself studying Witten.

“You’ve got to learn from him as the day goes by,” Moreau said.”Kind of by observation, in a way, and that’s a weird thing to say because he’s a teammate and friend. But he’s also a titan of the industry.

“For me, anything he would say, any point he would make, anything he felt the need to interject, was something that you need to jot down. That’s a note you need to take. That’s something that you need to learn because, obviously, he’s a Mt. Rushmore-level talent.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at [email protected]. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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