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Jon Gruden may have played a COVID-19 prank on his own players this summer, but the NFL just showed the Las Vegas Raiders that they aren’t kidding around about taking safety protocols seriously.

The Raiders and their head coach will have to pay dearly for violating the league’s COVID-19 policies. While the financial hit certainly hurts, Gruden needs to ensure the violation doesn’t happen again. Because if the Raiders plan on earning a playoff berth, they can’t afford any more setbacks or distractions on or off the field.

COVID-19 continues to be a major theme this season

The 2020 NFL season will go down as one of the most unique ever. Most of that has to do with COVID-19, which has played a significant role in several ways.

On one hand, a number of players elected to opt-out of the season. That left several teams—most notably the New England Patriots—in a tough spot from a personnel perspective.

While the NBA succeeded in keeping COVID-19 at bay, the NFL has been unable to do so. Several teams have experienced outbreaks, including the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons. The league had to reschedule the matchup between the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs once Cam Newton and Jordan Ta’amu tested positive for the coronavirus.

Earlier in the season, Jon Gruden got fined $100,000 for not wearing his mask properly during a game. The Raiders also got fined a total of $300,000. Plus, the NFL had to reschedule Las Vegas’ matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a COVID-19 situation.

With players, coaches, and staff members continuing to test positive, the NFL has stepped up its safety protocols in an effort to keep the season running as smoothly as possible despite the presence of COVID-19.

Jon Gruden and the Raiders just paid a steep price for COVID-19 protocol violations

Having already received a stiff penalty from the league for COVID-19 violations, Jon Gruden and the Raiders just got hammered again.

ESPN reported that the team got fined $500,000 and will be stripped of a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Gruden will have to pay $150,000 for his role in what was described as “brazen and repeated violations of [COVID-19] protocols.”

In total, the Las Vegas franchise has been fined nearly $1.2 million for breaching protocols. No other team has lost a draft pick as a result of COVID-19 violations.

During his media availability on Friday, Gruden commented on the situation.

“I’m just going to say [I’m] very proud of our organization, how we’ve handled this entire protocol and this entire process and I’m not going to comment any further than that,” the Raiders head coach said. “We, as I said last week, I believe we’re on the cutting edge of being the best in servicing players and I’ll leave it at that.”

Can the Raiders stay in the playoff hunt in the AFC?


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Ultimately, Jon Gruden can afford to pay his latest fine from the NFL. What he can’t afford, however, is to let the Raiders continue to break COVID-19 protocols. Because if Las Vegas has any chance of making the playoffs, it needs all of its players healthy and ready to go during the second half of the season.

Currently, the Raiders own a 4-3 record and sit in second place in the AFC West. Though they don’t look great on defense, they have taken a leap on the other side of the ball.

In Gruden’s first year at the helm, the Raiders ranked 28th in scoring and 23rd in total yards. Last season, they jumped to 24th and 11th, respectively.

Through seven games, Las Vegas ranks 12th in scoring at a clip of 26.7 points per game and 11th in total yards. Both rankings could rise based on the team’s second-half schedule.

The Raiders still have to play the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers twice each. Plus, they have tasty matchups against the Falcons (Week 12) and New York Jets (Week 13).

Ultimately, the Raiders have the talent on offense to compete for a playoff spot. If they can take care of business against the Broncos and Chargers, they will already be at eight wins. Assuming they don’t fall flat on their face against the Falcons and Jets, that puts them at 10 victories.

In a year unlike any other, we may just see Jon Gruden back in the playoffs.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.