HENDERSON, Nev. — Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden seemingly put an end to speculation that his team’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday might be postponed or moved a second time due to a positive coronavirus test this week.
The Raiders’ entire starting offensive line and a starting safety are on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
“We’re going to play Sunday at 1 o’clock they tell me, and we’ll be ready to go,” Gruden said Friday during his Zoom media availability.
It has been a “weird” week for the Raiders, quarterback Derek Carr acknowledged, after right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for the coronavirus. Because, sources have confirmed, Brown was not wearing his tracer at the team facility before testing positive, the other four starting offensive linemen — left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Denzelle Good, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson — all had to join Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list as high-risk close contacts, despite all of them testing negative thus far. Same with safety Johnathan Abram.
Because the last known contact between Brown and the other starting offensive linemen occurred in practice on Monday, they have a chance at being reinstated in time to play against the Buccaneers. League protocol states that high-risk close contacts have to remain in self-isolation for five days, plus the day of contact, as long as they all continue to test negative.
“I do believe there’s a good chance those men will be back soon,” Gruden said.
Abram, though, had contact with Brown on Tuesday, so he will not have time to get through the protocol to suit up Sunday.
Brown will not play Sunday.
“We played four games without Trent,” Gruden said. “We used four different right tackles, so we’re experienced at adjusting, and we’ll have a right tackle that’s prepared and ready to play. The good news is that when I have talked to Trent, he is feeling better, and hopefully we get him back here soon. He’s a big part of this team.”
Sources have confirmed that because Brown was not wearing his tracer, film of Monday’s practice was scoured to see whom Brown had interacted with that day, hence the other starting offensive linemen being isolated.
Still, the starters have been participating in practice and meetings this week in a virtual sense.
“You can still get a lot of work done,” Gruden said. “So we’ve had a good week of practice, and, like I said, we’ll be ready to go.”
The Raiders have had their issues with COVID-19 protocols this season, from Gruden and the Raiders being fined $100,000 and $250,000, respectively, for the coach’s failure to wear a mask properly on the sideline in the home opener on Sept. 21, to the team being fined $50,000 for allowing an uncredentialed employee access to the locker room after the game. Nine players, including Carr, were fined $15,000 apiece and tight end Darren Waller fined $30,000 for not wearing masks and breaking protocols at Waller’s charity fundraiser.
Gruden said he had the virus in the summer.
“Like I said, I’m really proud of our team, our coaches, and our trainers have done a great job,” Gruden said. “There are protocols that are updated during this process, and safety is paramount. Everybody’s safety is paramount, and I’m proud of the NFL, proud to be in this league right now playing during this pandemic. So we’re going to have to do what we have to do to make sure we keep our players safe, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Raiders-Buccaneers game was initially scheduled for Sunday night but was flexed out in case the game had to be postponed.
A team source, meanwhile, said they do not like the Raiders being used as a cautionary tale by the league, but acknowledged they only have themselves to blame by not following the protocols.