Jason Owens Yahoo Sports
The Las Vegas Raiders are facing significant COVID-19 problems — again.
According to NFL Network, at least eight starters on the Raiders defense — among others — will be placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. Those players have not been identified, and they may not be eligible to play Sunday.
Either way, it’s going to be a problem as the Raiders face the daunting task of taking on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
According to the report, their placement on the list is due to high-risk contacts instead of positive tests. If they continue to test negative, the players on the list can play Sunday. Either way, they won’t be able to prepare in practice this week for the league’s most dangerous offense.
Another Raiders COVID headache
Wednesday’s news is the latest in a season full of COVID-19 issues for the Raiders that have prompted multiple fines and penalties from the NFL, including a docked draft pick. The worst-case football scenario would see the Raiders unable to field a team for Sunday, forcing the league to shift the schedule.
The Raiders-Chiefs game is the “Sunday Night Football” game this weekend, meaning the NFL is already having to consider contingency plans for Sunday’s prime-time slot.
Both teams have already had their bye weeks. If the league is forced to postpone the game, rescheduling opens up a new level of logistical headaches that early-season pre-bye postponements did not.
What will NFL do if there is a Raiders outbreak?
The NFL has acknowledged that it’s open to adding an 18th week to the regular season if necessary — but it doesn’t want to. It’s also threatened teams with game forfeitures for COVID-19 protocol violations that force schedule changes.
Per an Oct. 5 NFL memo:
“Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustment to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game.”
The Raiders are repeat offenders. They’re the only team that’s been hit with the loss of a draft pick for protocol violations. If the Raiders can’t field a team on Sunday, is this the scenario that forces the NFL to bring down the forfeiture hammer?
Even at this stage, it seems drastic and unlikely. The league will do everything it reasonably can to field every game on the schedule this season. But the Raiders are certainly pressing their luck.
Raiders’ long list of COVID protocol violations
The most recent round of COVID protocol penalties for the Raiders consisted of a $500,000 team fine, a $150,000 fine for head coach Jon Gruden and the loss of a sixth-round draft pick in 2021. The severity of the penalty was due to “repeat offenses” of COVID-19 protocols, sources told Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson.
Those penalties came down on Nov. 5.
Prior to that, the NFL had fined Gruden $100,000 and the Raiders $250,000 after he failed to properly wear a mask during a Week 2 game against the New Orleans Saints. The team was fined an additional $50,000 for allowing a non-credentialed employee into the postgame locker room in violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
In October, 10 players were fined a total of $165,000 for attending a crowded indoor fundraiser with most of them failing to wear masks. The latest round of fines occurred after offensive lineman Trent Brown was placed on the COVID reserve list and the rest of the offensive line was barred from practice after being exposed to Brown ahead of their Week 7 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Raiders were able to field an offensive line and play their game that week. But the incident pushed the NFL to hand down the most severe COVID-19 protocol sanction of the season.
And now there’s this.