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Friday's NFL: Jon Gruden defends Raiders on coronavirus despite latest penalty

Associated Press

Coach Jon Gruden defended the way the Las Vegas Raiders have handled the coronavirus despite the organization being hit with a hefty penalty for violations from the league.

A person familiar with the punishment said the team was fined $500,000, Gruden docked $150,000 and the team stripped of a sixth-round draft pick because of how the Raiders handled Trent Brown’s positive coronavirus test last month. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.

“I’m just going to say, very proud of our organization, how we have handled this entire protocol and this entire process and I’m not going to comment any further than that,” Gruden said Friday. “I believe we’re on the cutting edge of being the best at servicing players and I’ll leave it at that.”

The Raiders are appealing the penalty.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden

The organization has been penalized several times already this season for violating coronavirus protocols with the punishments leading to a total of $1,215,000 for the team, Gruden and players.

Gruden wouldn’t comment when asked if he believed the team was being singled out by the league.

“I’m really proud of the guys that I work with here,” he said. “We’ve done a heck of a job. It’s a very difficult process and I stand by what we’re doing here. I believe we’re doing a heck of a job. We can always get better and that’s obvious.”

While several teams have been fined so far this season, the Raiders are the first to be docked a draft pick following multiple violations.

The latest punishment stems from Brown’s positive test last month when the Raiders were already supposed to be in “intensive” protocols following teammate Damon Arnette’s positive test.

At a practice on Oct. 19, a day before Brown tested positive, he was not wearing a mask as required and didn’t socially distance from teammates. That led to four other starting offensive linemen being placed on the COVID-19 list as “high-risk” contacts. They missed the rest of the practice week before returning the morning of a 45-20 loss to Tampa Bay on Oct. 25.

Safety Johnathan Abram was forced to miss that game because he spent time with Brown the following day and wasn’t cleared to return until Oct. 26.

Brown was activated from the COVID-19 list last week but missed the game at Cleveland after a reported mishap with an IV sent him to the hospital before the game. Brown went back on the COVID-19 list Thursday when he had more symptoms.

Gruden was fined $100,000 and the team docked $250,000 after the coach didn’t wear his mask properly during a Week 2 win over New Orleans. The team also was fined $50,000 for allowing an unauthorized employee in the locker room after the game.

Tight end Darren Waller was fined $30,000 and nine teammates, including quarterback Derek Carr, were fined $15,000 for attending an indoor charity event held by Waller’s foundation that violated local coronavirus protocols. Players were seen at the event not wearing masks or social distancing.

Dolphins assistant tests positive

An unidentified Miami Dolphins assistant coach tested positive for coronavirus and was quarantined, and receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. went on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but the team planned to play Sunday’s game at Arizona as scheduled.

Because of the coach’s positive test, practice Friday was limited to a walkthrough. Meetings were held via Zoom, and more stringent requirements regarding mask wearing were enforced.

“Look, it’s 2020,” coach Brian Flores said. “Things are ever changing. We’ve just got to be able to adapt.”

The Dolphins planned to fly to Arizona later Friday, and Flores was hopeful a spread of the virus within the team could be avoided.

“I feel good about how we handled the situation,” Flores said. “We wouldn’t fly if we felt like there was any situation where we would create some sort of outbreak.”

Flores did not say whether the infected coach had symptoms. The Dolphins hadn’t had a coronavirus case since training camp.

Darnold update

Sam Darnold isn’t sure yet if his sore shoulder will allow him to play Monday night.

The New York Jets quarterback practiced for the first time this week after taking a hard shot to his right arm at Kansas City last Sunday.

“Yeah, it felt all right,” Darnold said after being limited at practice. “Just taking it day by day.”

Darnold missed two games last month after spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder against Denver on Oct. 1. He was reinjured against the Chiefs, but an MRI revealed no further damage. The quarterback acknowledged earlier in this week his shoulder was sore, and was noncommittal about playing against the New England Patriots.

“We’ll see,” he said. “Again, I think right now just taking it day by day is the best thing to do.”

Coach Adam Gase said before practice that the key will be how Darnold’s shoulder feels Saturday.

Extra points

The Atlanta Falcons canceled practice and worked virtually after a member of the football staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The Falcons said the move was “out of an abundance of caution” while contact tracing is used to determine if anyone else might have been exposed.

The team expects to play Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

... Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 and the club $250,000 because coaches improperly wore facial coverings last Sunday, a person with knowledge of the fines told The Associated Press.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the fines have not been announced, said Tomlin was among the coaches cited for “not wearing face coverings at all times on the sidelines” during the victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

... The Houston Texans will be without three linebackers against the Jacksonville Jaguars after linebacker Jacob Martin tested positive for COVID-19.

Interim coach Romeo Crennel said that starting linebacker Whitney Mercilus and reserve linebacker Dylan Cole would miss Sunday’s game after contact tracing found that they had been in close contact with Martin.

... San Francisco 49ers receiver Kendrick Bourne tested negative for COVID-19 for a second straight day, clearing the way for him and close contacts Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel to return to the team.

... Seattle Seahawks running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (hamstring) were ruled out for Sunday’s game at Buffalo.

... The Tennessee Titans will be without three-time Pro Bowl punter Brett Kern and wide receiver Adam Humphries on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.