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Repeat offenses cost Raiders dearly with loss of draft pick

Updated November 6, 2020 - 4:31 pm

The Raiders aren’t crushing any virus, no matter what the T-shirts say.

But they sure are taking a whack to their bank account.

Hammer. Fallen.

The NFL again spoke to how it believes Las Vegas has failed at following COVID-19 protocols. This time, the answer was much louder.

The league has fined the Raiders $500,000, coach Jon Gruden an additional $150,000 and stripped the team of its sixth-round draft pick in 2021 for repeated violations.

In all, the team has been fined $1.185 million over COVID-19 protocols.

“I’m just going to say that I’m very proud of our organization for how we have handled this entire protocol and this entire process,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to comment any further than that. As I said last week, I believe we are on the cutting edge of being the best at servicing players. I’ll leave it at that.”

If so, they’re slicing away with a butter knife.

Counting the ways

This is some elaborate ploy, right? It has to be. Gruden is too smart. He either continues to talk as if the Raiders have actually been competent when following protocols in hopes others might be dense enough to believe him or, perhaps, that he might not have to continue addressing the issue.

Which he won’t.

If his team actually gets in line and becomes more responsible.

Let us count the ways it hasn’t been …

Gruden was fined $100,000 and the team $250,000 for the coach not wearing a mask during a Monday Night Football game against the Saints.

The Raiders were fined $50,000 for allowing an unauthorized team employee into the locker room following that victory against New Orleans.

Ten players were fined a total of $150,000 for violating protocols on face coverings at a fundraiser held by tight end Darren Waller.

■ Now comes the most recent fines and lost draft pick, prompted by right tackle Trent Brown not wearing his contact tracer and several teammates not wearing masks after cornerback Damon Arnette was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

That’s not crushing a virus. That’s not even tapping it on the shoulder.

The fines might make for an indiscernible dent to a franchise now valued at more than $3 billion and a head coach who makes a reported $10 million annually. But not the draft pick. Not any draft pick. Oy vey. That part must drive Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock batty.

It doesn’t matter that it’s from the sixth round. Teams covet all picks, assured that any draft could produce the next late-round Tom Brady narrative. For weeks now, folks have wondered why the Raiders didn’t more aggressively pursue trades that could have upgraded specific positions, especially along the defensive line.

At one point, Gruden suggested the price for some available players might be too high. But many of those suggested as possible Las Vegas options were shipped elsewhere for sixth and seventh-round selections. Translation: Gruden and Mayock really love their draft picks.

But one is gone now — pending appeal — and the Raiders have become the first team to lose a pick over protocol violations. It wasn’t too harsh. It was a message from the league. To the Raiders and 31 other teams.

Is the NFL using Las Vegas as an example for everyone else? Of course. Doesn’t make it wrong.

Improvement needed

Others have been fined. Coaches. Franchises. But none have offered such an inconsistent and lengthy list of offenses as Las Vegas. I would assume that any additional violations by the Raiders would rightly come with increased discipline.

You want to see Gruden spontaneously combust?

Take a fourth-round pick from him. Or even higher.

A minute after Gruden said he wouldn’t comment further Friday, he commented.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “Like I said, I’m very proud of the guys that I work with here. We’ve done a heck of a job. It’s very difficult. A very difficult process. I stand by what we’re doing here. I think we’re doing a heck of a job.

“We can always be better and that’s obvious.”

As the sun rising in the east.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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