Jon Gruden's reported COVID-19 safety plan: Tricking Raiders players into thinking he tested positive

Jack Baer
·3-min read

All around the NFL, teams are doing everything they can to preach coronavirus safety to players as they prepare for a season that hinges on them staying safe from the ongoing pandemic.

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reportedly decided to take things a step further.

Jon Gruden’s COVID-19 trick

According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Gruden decided to play a somewhat dirty trick on his players during a routine team Zoom call last week. As players logged on, they were greeted by assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia instead of Gruden.

Bisaccia gave the players some bad news: Gruden was in the hospital with COVID-19. After some apparently shocked reactions from the players, the team then revealed the whole thing had been a ruse.

From Garafolo:

Bisaccia told them ‘Guys, coach Gruden has COVID and he’s at the hospital now and he’s being taken care of.’ The players were taken aback. ‘Whoa.’ They shortly thereafter told them ‘You know what? We’re just putting you on a little bit.’ It wasn’t a joke. What it was was the team illustrating to the players that this could happen at any moment, to anybody.

So, basically, Gruden took a page out of the “Arrested Development” school of teaching lessons. Was it manipulative? Maybe. Is it surprising to see that it’s Jon Gruden doing this? Absolutely not.

Garafalo noted the trick came a couple days before Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson became the second NFL head coach to test positive for the coronavirus. New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was the first all the way back in March.

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden talks with reporters during NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Jon Gruden had an interesting plan to make players take COVID-19 seriously. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Raiders not seeing many cases, stadium another story

Whether or not Gruden’s plan was effective, the Raiders so far haven’t seen too many COVID-19 cases in training camp. Only one player, running back Devontae Booker, landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list following the team’s first wave of testing. Three other players — Ukeme Eligwe, D.J. Killings and Jeremiah Valoaga — have opted out of the season.

However, the team’s new $2 billion stadium, the recently completed Allegiant Stadium, saw more than a few cases as construction was completed. The project had 16 workers test positive as of May 1, a number that may have gone up in the months since.

Allegiant Stadium isn’t alone, as many major football stadium construction projects saw workers test positive by the dozen.

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