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Raiders should not be forced to play minus offensive line

Fairness, in the case of the Raiders, should not be in the eye of a nose swab. There are larger issues at play here.

The NFL schedule states Las Vegas will host Tampa Bay on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, where Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are set to engage a Raiders team coming off a bye week. The game will be played. Maybe. Probably. Who knows?

For the second straight day, the Raiders on Thursday practiced without their entire starting offensive line, all of whom had been in close contact with tackle Trent Brown before he tested positive for COVID-19.

Kolton Miller. Gabe Jackson. Rodney Hudson. Denzelle Good. Those linemen, along with safety Johnathan Abram, have been deemed high-risk contacts to Brown and added to the COVID-19 reserve list. They will be quarantined for five days and not allowed to return to the facility until Sunday at the earliest.

The Raiders, as is standard in the NFL with all potential COVID-19 outbreaks, are being investigated by the league for protocol compliance violations. The league doesn’t believe Brown has consistently worn his COVID tracking device. Also, the NFL Network is reporting that there is a video of Raiders offensive linemen hanging out together without masks.

This, after the team and Jon Gruden were fined for the head coach not wearing a mask on the sidelines during a game and several players not wearing theirs at a fundraiser for tight end Darren Waller’s foundation.

The league may well go forward with Sunday’s game. But it would be a risk far too massive if the Raiders were forced to play without their starting offensive line.

It also would be flat-out wrong.

Game time moved

Already, kickoff for Sunday has been moved from its prime time slot of 5:20 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. A game between Seattle and Arizona will now enjoy the national spotlight as an evening solo act. Makes sense.

You can’t possibly risk — there’s that word again — not having the most coveted of television placements left unfilled because a game might be postponed.

Which could happen with the Raiders and Bucs.

Which should happen if Las Vegas is without those linemen.

There are two parts to this. The first is being responsible about diligently following those COVID protocols set forth by the NFL. The Raiders have obviously failed at this.

If the Titans are a runaway winner thus far for dealing poorly with the pandemic, Las Vegas has a stranglehold on the No. 2 spot. It’s not a contest anyone wants to win.

It was earlier this month when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell warned of stricter penalties for violations of COVID-19 protocols that force schedule changes. These included additional fines, loss of draft choices and even forfeiting a game.

I’m not sure any team is near being handed a loss for such miscues, but the Raiders should once-and-for-all get their act together or hold their breath when it comes to potential discipline.

But what they — or any team — should never have to do is play a game on a week’s notice without a starting offensive line. This is the second part.

Health and safety. Those were also words used by Goodell in his Oct. 3 comments. It should stand for more than beating a virus.

No matter your view about a specific team, eliminating five starters up front and allowing their backups just days of preparation before playing could greatly jeopardize the well-being of others. Brandon Parker. John Simpson. Andre James. Patrick Omameh. Sam Young. Of those who would fill spots for the Raiders, only two have played more than eight snaps this season.

I get it. It’s the NFL. Modern-day gladiators. The league’s entire existence is built on violence and being susceptible to injury. But it also occurs in a natural, organic, unforeseeable manner.

Entire position group

If you can anticipate a potentially dangerous situation beforehand, as with the Raiders and their missing line and those skill players this might affect, it’s the sensible and correct thing to be proactive and postpone the game.

This isn’t Cam Newton testing positive and the Patriots having to play without him. This is an entire position group.

Derek Carr can talk all he wants about a next-man up philosophy and expanded rosters, but do you really believe the Raiders quarterback is excited about standing behind five backups? Running back Josh Jacobs has to be thrilled with the idea.

Investigate the Raiders. Discipline them for a lax COVID environment. Come down hard on them. All fair.

But one side of the issue shouldn’t determine the other. If a team is missing its entire offensive line and you believe that puts others in peril before a game kicks off, postpone it.

It’s the right decision. The fair one.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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