Bucs take league-leading defense out West to face Raiders
Twitter was buzzing on Wednesday morning when news broke that both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski weren’t practicing for the NFC South leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But head coach Bruce Arians made it clear afterward there was nothing for Bucs’ fans to fear heading into Sunday night’s game at Las Vegas.
“Yeah, it’s just a vet day,” Arians said. “(Brady) and Gronk both. It’s just that time of year that we just need to rest them up.”
The 43-year-old Brady was not sacked during Tampa Bay’s 38-10 drubbing of Green Bay on Sunday when he completed 17 of 27 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Gronkowski, who has a shoulder injury, caught five passes for 78 yards, including his first touchdown reception for the Bucs.
The trip to Las Vegas begins a stretch of three consecutive prime-time games for Tampa Bay (4-2), which includes a Monday Night Football contest at New York against the Giants followed by another Sunday night game at home against the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s an honor to be on the national games, and I think our guys are embracing it,” Arians said.
Although it turned out the news that Brady and Gronkowski missing practice on Wednesday was no cause for alarm, what followed a few hours later out of the Raiders practice facility in Henderson, Nev., potentially was.
Right tackle Trent Brown, who practiced Monday after the team returned from its bye week, tested positive for COVID-19, and Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden said the rest of the starting offensive line — left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Denzelle Good, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson — as well as starting safety Johnathan Abram, were all sent home as part of contact tracing.
“I guess they were around Trent,” Gruden said. “I can’t get into things any more than that. But hopefully we’ll get some players back (Thursday), or for Sunday.”
The NFL mandates a five-day isolation and negative PCR tests each day after contact with a COVID-19 positive individual before returning to the club facility.
The other offensive linemen on the 53-man roster include tackles Sam Young and Brandon Parker, guards John Simpson and Patrick Omameh and center Andre James.
“We’re listening to the league and they’re advising us on what to do,” Gruden said. “We used other linemen and adjusted practice. We’ll have five (offensive linemen) on Sunday. We’ll be ready to go.”
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Raiders (3-2), who may be using their fair share of backups on the offensive line against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks first in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (282.0) and rushing defense (64.3), and second in sacks (22).
The blitzing Buccaneers sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times and hit him 11 more times while holding him to just 16 of 35 passing for 160 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions and a passer rating of 35.4.
“I applaud them for what they did Sunday to Aaron Rodgers because he is a real man,” Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp told tampabay.com. “You don’t throw him for a 35 quarterback rating very often.”
Cornerback Keisean Nixon (groin) and wide receiver Bryan Edwards (foot/ankle) were other Raiders who didn’t practice on Wednesday while running back Leonard Fournette (ankle), who sat out the Green Bay victory, was a full participant for Tampa Bay.
–Field Level Media