There is a 17th opponent on the Raiders’ schedule this season. It’s invisible to the naked eye, but it lingers around every corner, poised and eager to attack at any moment.
The despise Raiders coach Jon Gruden has for COVID-19 is palpable. He hates it for the way it takes lives and wreaks havoc on everything we took for granted and how it taunts and mocks us every single day.
“I know a lot of people that have had it, (do) have it,” Gruden said during a media Zoom call on Thursday. “It’s an awful thing.”
Beyond the wicked impact the virus continues to have across the country, it continues to stand in the way of the Raiders and their goals. During an unprecedented offseason, the virus prompted the league to completely shut down team facilities. The only contact Gruden had with his players was via virtual conference calls.
As the Raiders and the rest of the NFL open training camp, they do so under the cloud of a deadly virus that dramatically alters business as usual.
Gruden’s frustration is matched only by his desire to stomp COVID-19 in a way that obliterates it as a threat to the Raiders and their objectives. “We want to crush this virus,” he said. “We want to beat it into the ground.”
That message was heard loud and clear by the Raiders upon reporting to training camp this week. “I think coach Gruden sees any obstacle between us and a Super Bowl as an opponent he needs to gameplan for,” Raiders fullback Alec Ingold said.
And in the case of COVID-19, that means a minute-by-minute coordinated effort to which every player, coach, staff member and club employee will have to carefully and diligently adhere. And not just during their time at the club’s team headquarters in Henderson, which has transformed into a protective bubble to help keep all inside from the virus.
At the end of each workday, every player will set foot back into the real world. It’s at that point Gruden wants everyone to set an unequivocal standard for themselves, a standard they can’t fail to meet.
“I want to dominant when we leave the building,” Gruden said.
The carrying out of such a mandate will require responsible behavior from individual players, but also frank and honest policing from one player to the next. Gruden is counting on the peer pressure among players to enforce an around-the-clock adherence to protocols and safe behavior.
The goal, of course, is to manage COVID-19 in a way that allows the Raiders to field as complete a team as possible every Sunday. That will require a 24-hour a day, all-in approach.
That’s true now more than ever after Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins had their 17th player test positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, an outbreak that has at least temporarily halted their season.
“To me that’s the number one goal,” Gruden said. “What you do in the building is being evaluated. In the strength room and the training room, on the field, in the meeting rooms. You can’t evaluate everything you do off the field. So we have a players committee and great leadership here that understands that one mistake can be our demise. One mistake can bring us all down in a real bad way.”
Booker headed for COVID-19 list
The Raiders will place running back Devontae Booker on the temporary COVID-19 injured reserve list.
The Raiders signed the four-year veteran free agent during the offseason. He spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos.
Per the COVID-19 protocols in place, if a player tests positive and is symptomatic, his return is predicated on at least 10 days passing since the symptoms first occurred and at least 72 passing since symptoms last occurred.
In asymptomatic positive result cases, players can return either 10 days after the positive test or in five days if the player tests negative twice over that period.
Booker does not count against the Raiders roster while he is on the temporary COVID-19 injured reserve list.