The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the NFL’s biggest COVID-19 headaches.
But if you listen to head coach Jon Gruden, they’re on the verge of a coronavirus breakthrough.
Amid reports that significant NFL punishments are incoming after repeated COVID-19 protocol violations, Gruden told reporters on Monday that everything is fine in Las Vegas. In fact, everything’s better than fine.
“As an organization, we are on the cutting edge of beating the virus,” Gruden said, per The Athletic’s Vic Tarfur.
Get the CDC and WHO on the phone. The Raiders have this pandemic figured out.
More COVID-19 problems in Las Vegas
Monday’s comments arrived a day after the Raiders spent the previous week wondering if they would have an offensive line for their Sunday game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team sent all five offensive line starters home midweek amid fears that they had been exposed to COVID-19.
The NFL moved the game from Sunday night to Sunday afternoon to ensure that the league would have a prime-time game to broadcast in the event that the Raiders could not play. When four of the offensive linemen were eventually cleared after multiple negative tests, the game went on Sunday afternoon.
Crisis was averted.
Gruden reportedly ‘livid’ Raiders had to play
Was Gruden glad that the game didn’t have to be postponed or even worse — forfeited? The NFL has threatened teams that force schedule changes because of COVID-19 protocol violations with forfeits, after all.
No. He was reportedly “livid” that the NFL made them play on Sunday after a week of stunted preparation because of the COVID-19 scare — a scare that was reportedly a product of their own negligence.
The NFL and NFLPA are reviewing the #Raiders’ recent COVID-19 issues, including a positive test for RT Trent Brown, who they believe hadn’t been consistently wearing his tracking device, and video of offensive linemen hanging out together without masks, per sources.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 22, 2020
When faced with the reality of the reported league investigation, Gruden played the classic “what about” card on Monday. As in, what about the other teams that have dealt with outbreaks?
“We’re not the only team in the league, so you know, that’s had people catch the virus,” Gruden said.
Raiders are repeat offenders
One of those other teams that had people catch the virus was the Tennessee Titans. And the NFL reportedly fined them $350,000 after an outbreak of at least 24 players and staff members wreaked havoc on the NFL schedule.
With the Raiders on the repeat offender list, they could be in line for a much stiffer punishment from the NFL.
Raiders already docked more that $500K
Prior to last week’s scare, the Raiders had racked up six figures in fines for multiple COVID-19 protocol violations.
The NFL fined Gruden $100,000 and the Raiders $250,000 after he failed to properly wear a mask during a Week 2 game against the New Orleans Saints. The league later fined the Raiders $50,000 for allowing a non-credentialed employee into a postgame locker room in violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
When several Raiders players were seen at a crowded indoor local fundraiser not wearing masks, the NFL again handed out fines ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 to the offending parties.
Judging by Gruden’s comments on Monday, fines totaling more than $500,000 haven’t sufficiently delivered the NFL’s COVID-19 message.
If the league finds that violations did lead to last week’s coronavirus scare in Las Vegas, Gruden should anticipate a stiffer penalty instead of the applause he apparently believes he’s due.
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