While every NFL season eventually becomes a war of attrition, the 2020 campaign has some extra challenges. COVID-19, of course, doesn’t ignore professional athletes; as we’ve already seen, the virus can cancel games and knock players out of the lineup with unrelenting ease. The Las Vegas Raiders experienced that reality earlier this week after suffering their own internal outbreak.
On Sunday morning, however, the Las Vegas Raiders and their fans got a major boost. When the club faces off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they’ll have a (relatively) clean bill of health and some much-needed reinforcements.
Even the NFL can’t escape the harsh reality of COVID-19
During 2020, the entire world has unfortunately become well acquainted with COVID-19. Even the NFL is no exception to that new norm.
While the 2019 NFL season had ended shortly before the coronavirus pandemic officially reached North America, the league wasn’t able to avoid making some changes. Although there were no games to immediately cancel, the league’s annual entry draft underwent some massive changes; any in-person festivities were replaced by a lengthy video call.
Those adjustments, however, proved to be the beginning of the process rather than the end. When it became clear that COVID-19 wasn’t going away anytime soon, the NFL and NFLPA hammered out a new agreement. Players could opt-out of the 2020 campaign, safety protocols were put in place, and the entire preseason was canceled.
Since then, though, things haven’t gone entirely according to plan. While the league has managed to make it through six weeks of the season, there have been some bumps along the way; players like Cam Newton have tested positive for COVID-19, a handful of games have been rescheduled, and the Tennessee Titans’ internal outbreak briefly seemed like a legitimate threat to derail the entire season.
The Las Vegas Raiders suffered a brutal COVID-19 blow this week
After knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5, the Las Vegas Raiders headed into their bye week feeling pretty good about themselves. When it came time to return to work, however, the club was immediately hit with some bad news.
On Monday, rookie Damon Arnette tested positive for COVID-19; two days later, tackle Trent Brown joined him on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. While Arnette was going to miss Week 6’s date with the Buccaneers anyway, Brown is a key part of the Raiders offensive line. He’ll be missed, especially against a Tampa Bay defense that’s adept at torturing opposing quarterbacks.
To make matters worse, the Raiders sent all five of their starting offensive linemen home to quarantine, as they’d been in close contact with Brown. If hitting the field without one player is tough, losing an entire unit is a nightmare.
The Las Vegas Raiders will have most of their offensive line intact on Sunday
As the Tennessee Titans reminded us, COVID-19 can spread with troubling ease; one infection can easily turn into an outbreak. The Las Vegas Raiders, however, seem like they’ve dodged a bullet.
According to Adam Schefter, all of Las Vegas’ tests came back clean. In addition to the obvious good news that no one else has contracted a potentially-deadly virus, that means the Raiders’ offensive line is clear to play; barring Williams, who has to go through the appropriate protocols, David Carr should have four out of his five preferred bodyguards on Sunday afternoon.
While playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will still be a challenge, that clean bill of health will still give Jon Gruden and his troops a massive boost. As we saw against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Las Vegas Raiders can hang with anyone, as long as Derek Carr has a chance to work some magic. For him to have that chance, he’ll need as much of his starting offensive line on the field as possible.