Raiders reeling with COVID again while prepping for Chiefs
Something about Sunday Night Football seems to bring out the worst for the Las Vegas Raiders when it comes to dealing with COVID-19.
The Raiders had their Oct. 25 prime time game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shifted to the afternoon when offensive tackle Trent Brown came down with the virus and the entire starting offensive line was forced into quarantine until the morning of the game because of their high-risk contact with Brown.
Tampa Bay cruised to a 45-20 victory.
Now Las Vegas (6-3), winners of three in a row, finds itself in the midst of another COVID-19 outbreak heading into Sunday night’s AFC West showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (8-1).
Following a positive test by starting defensive end Clelin Ferrell on Tuesday, seven more Raiders defensive players were put on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday – safety Johnathan Abram, defensive tackles Maliek Collins, Johnathan Hankins and Kendal Vickers, defensive back Isaiah Johnson, defensive end Arden Key and practice squad defensive end David Irving.
They join safety Lamarcus Joyner, previously identified as a close contact of Ferrell, Brown and linebacker Cory Littleton, who was placed on the list last week.
Ferrell is likely out for Sunday night’s game as is Brown, who isn’t expected back until next week. But the other players will be eligible to play Sunday, as long as they continue to test negative.
One big problem for Jon Gruden and company: Those players will be limited to virtual practices and meetings until then and won’t be allowed on the practice field together. Not exactly the best way to get your defense prepared for reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and company.
Gruden bristled Wednesday during a conference call after the NFL Network reported that nearly his entire starting defense would be placed on the list.
“I don’t know about the whole defense,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to get into what list anybody is on. We practiced today, and we’ll be ready for the game Sunday.”
Kansas City, despite coming off its bye, has its own COVID-19 issues with both starting offensive tackles, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, as well as backup Martinas Rankin going on the COVID list earlier this week after being in close contact with someone who tested positive. All could play Sunday, barring a positive test result.
“We’ll just see how everything works out,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “I’m just going to take it day by day.”
Defensive end Taco Charlton (ankle) and cornerback BoPete Keyes (illness) also didn’t practice for the Chiefs on Wednesday.
Reid is an eye-popping 18-3 in regular-season games after a bye during his 22 seasons as a head coach, and will likely have a very focused team heading to Las Vegas after losing to the Raiders, 40-32, in their first meeting on Oct. 11, the team’s only setback in 18 games (17-1) over the last calendar year.
“I think the loss in general, it showed that we’re not going to just show up at the field and win every single football game,” said Mahomes. “We’re going to have to have the mindset that we’re going to come with our best effort every single week. I feel like we’ve built on that the following weeks after that.”
Before the news of Wednesday’s COVID outbreak in Las Vegas, the big story leading into Sunday was that Gruden had the team buses take a couple of victory laps around Arrowhead Stadium afterward to celebrate.
“They won the game,” Reid said. “They can do anything they want to do. … That’s not our style, but we’ll get ourselves back ready to play.”
“If you’re not ready to go in this game — playing a divisional opponent, playing against a good football team, you know it’s going to mean a lot toward the AFC West standings — then you’re not in the right sport,” Mahomes said. “For me it’s just as important as any other game in the division no matter if they took the victory lap or not.”
–Field Level Media