When it comes to game-day pandemic protocols, the NFL can (and will) take action when the rules are broken. When it comes to off-site violations, the teams have the ability to take action.
The first significant incident along these lines has happened in Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t like the fact that multiple players attended an event in apparent violation of the agreed NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols. The question now becomes whether Davis will impose discipline on the players who violated the rules.
The NFL’s position on the situation seems clear: It’s up to the team to address situations like this, via fines or suspensions for conduct detrimental to the team. Although individual teams can be disciplined by the league for failing to discipline certain non-players who break the rules regarding off-site behavior, the protocols contain no similar power to punish teams that choose not to punish players for doing things they shouldn’t do when not at work.
So it’s up to the Raiders to decide whether to punish the various players (including quarterback Derek Carr) for “[a]ttending an event that is prohibited by state and/or local regulation, executive order or law implemented due to Covid-19.”
It was believed/feared that young players on the bottom of the depth chart presented the greatest risk for off-duty behavior that would violate the rules. With the starting quarterback among those who violated the rules in Las Vegas, will the Raiders whack all of them equally? Will some (like Carr) get a pass? Or will, in the interests of consistency, the Raiders simply give all of them a warning, so that they don’t have to punish Carr?
Whatever the decision, it’s a horrible look for the Raiders, and for Carr. As the starting quarterback, he should have known better than to do anything other than go straight home and stay there on a Monday night (or any night).
It’s also a poor reflection, frankly, on coach Jon Gruden. Whatever he’s done to impress upon Carr and the other players the importance of complying with the off-duty rules, Gruden didn’t do enough. Otherwise, what happened on Monday night wouldn’t have happened at all.
Given Gruden’s $100,000 fine for failing to wear a mask, the investigation into whether the team allowed an unauthorized person into the locker room after a Week Two win over New Orleans, and this most recent indiscretion, it’s hard not to wonder whether Gruden’s tough talk about beating COVID-19 was just that — talk — with no burning desire to do everything necessary to keep all members of the organization from catching the virus.