Raiders coach Jon Gruden will have to face the team he took to a Super Bowl title in 2002 despite being without his entire starting offensive line for most of the week. Gruden isn’t happy about it.
Per a league source, Gruden is “livid” that the game wasn’t postponed to Monday or Tuesday night, in order to give him a chance to get ready for the game those offensive linemen who were sent home for most of the week due to enhanced COVID-19 protocols that automatically knock out other healthy players based on the official results (more on that in a bit) of contact tracing.
The Raiders, who were off last week, had the offensive linemen present for a Monday practice, but they weren’t cleared to return until Saturday, missing the most important practice days of the week. They won’t be as ready for Sunday’s showdown with the Tampa Bay defense as they could have been.
Gruden believes the game should have been bumped to Monday or Tuesday night, giving him more time to get his linemen ready. The Buccaneers play next Monday night against the Giants, reducing the inconvenience to Tampa Bay.
“As we’ve said since before the beginning of the season, we always try to play games as close to their scheduled time, date and location while keeping the health and safety of players and personnel as the foremost priority,” a league spokeman told PFT on Sunday. “There have been no additional positive tests among the Raiders who were able to keep their facility open and practice as a team. Roster flexibility is also in place with an increased number of practice squad players availability (16) and the ability to move them to [the] active [roster] as necessary. The Raiders close contacts are eligible to play today. Teams and players understand that strict adherence to the protocols is necessary to avoid outbreaks and disruptions of their schedule and season.”
The Raiders aren’t the only team to miss practice time this year. Among others, the Titans missed an extended stretch (but for off-site sessions), and the Patriots played the Broncos last week with limited practice time.
Although a stand-alone, prime-time game between the Bucs and Raiders would have generated enormous ratings, the league decided to proceed with the game as scheduled. One factor in this regard could have been a possible desire to play the game as soon as possible, before any additional positive tests from either team could force the game into an eighteenth week, since there would be no way to reschedule it during the remaining 10 weeks of the season.