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Raiders’ game moved off prime time, offensive line in limbo

Updated October 22, 2020 - 5:01 pm

The Raiders will be without five key players until Sunday morning at the earliest, as the fallout from Trent Brown’s positive COVID-19 test continues to impact the club.

The Raiders’ game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was moved by the NFL from Sunday night to Sunday afternoon to prepare for a possible postponement, remains to be played as scheduled at the moment.

Brown tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, and his starting offensive linemates — Kolton Miller, Gabe Jackson, Denzelle Good and Rodney Hudson, along with safety Johnathan Abram — have all been deemed high-risk contacts to Brown and added to the COVID-19 reserve list.

Brown, according to a person close to the situation, was lax in wearing his mandatory tracking monitor while at the Raiders’ facility. Because of that, what should have been an easy process determining who he came in close contact with became much more complicated.

As a result, without all the necessary tracking information to rule out teammates as high-risk contacts, there was no other choice but to err on the side of caution and deem all four offensive linemates and Abram as high risk.

In the initial process to determine who Brown had come in contact with, Abram, while not an offensive lineman, was identified.

All five players will be quarantined for five days, backtracked to their last known contact with Brown on Monday, and not allowed back in the Raiders’ facility until they clear all pertinent protocol hurdles.

Provided they do get clearance, though, they will have gone an entire week without practicing and essentially have only a few hours to get up to speed before taking the field against Tampa Bay.

It also means the Raiders face the possibility of having to play the Buccaneers on Sunday either without their entire offensive line or with a partial group that had no practice time to prepare.

That concern — along with the possibility of more players testing positive for COVID-19 over the next couple of days — prompted the NFL to move the Raiders’ game against the Buccaneers from 5 p.m.to 1:05 pm on Sunday and replace it with the Seattle Seahawks against the Arizona Cardinals.

The thought process being, should the Raiders-Bucs game ultimately be postponed to Monday or Tuesday, there will still be a prime-time game in place to replace it Sunday.

The postponement option remains on the table. According to a person close to the situation, though, moving the game to another day would require more Raiders to test positive for COVID-19.

Short of that, the Raiders will have to hope they get the five players back on Sunday to put them as close to full strength as possible, but without the benefit of normal preparation.

As is standard in any COVID-19 outbreak, the NFL is looking into potential compliance issue violations by the Raiders. In addition to Brown allegedly not wearing a tracking device, the NFL Network reported that there is a video of Raiders offensive linemen hanging out together without masks.

Meanwhile, the Raiders went through their normal workday on Thursday while under extremely abnormal conditions, just as they did on Wednesday when word broke that Brown had tested positive for COVID-19.

That meant scrambling to keep up while preparing to potentially play a game without several key players, Abram included.

“John is a big part of what we do, but we also have some guys that have been around here that have reps in practice,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. “We get them each and every week in case guys go down. … We have some guys that are versatile guys, so we’ll just have to see with John whatever the situation is. If he’s playing, great. If not, we have to have somebody step up in his place and play at a high level.”

The Raiders held out hope that Brown’s teammates would be deemed non-high risk contacts and that they would be let back into the facility on Thursday. But as they awoke Thursday morning, the NFL had not yet completed the tracing process, meaning the players were still not allowed back. By Thursday afternoon, all five were determined to be high-risk and joined Brown on the COVID-19 reserve list.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com.Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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