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Jon Gruden says ‘coronavirus must beaten ‘into the ground,’ as Devontae Booker placed on COVID-19 list

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“One mistake can bring us all down in a real bad way,” Raiders head coach warns

Oakland Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden met with media members on a Zoom call on Thursday morning to kick off training camp — but the coronavirus pandemic was at the forefront of his mind.

Gruden made it clear that beating the virus is as important as any game any NFL team may play in 2020.

“One mistake can bring us all down in a real bad way and it’s not just coming to football if you create a terrible illness,” Gruden said. “So I want to dominate when we leave the building. We want to crush this virus. We want to beat this virus into the ground.”

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Devontae Booker
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shortly before Gruden made his comments, ESPN reported that backup running Devontae Booker has been put on the reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he has either tested positive or has been exposed to coronavirus.

Barring major setbacks, Booker — a former Bronco who signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Raiders in May — should be ready to join training camp later.

Gruden said he has not been told by any players or coaches that they plan to opt out of the season before next week’s deadline.

Clearly, the pandemic is weighing on Gruden and he is just now seeing some players. He remarked that he hasn’t even met new linebacker Cory Littleton, who was the Raiders’ free-agent prize this year and who is being counted on to be part of a defensive turnaround.

“It’s been tough on me,” Gruden admitted. “I like to hug people … It’s been tough on America.”

Gruden knows from a football standout that playing through a pandemic has and will continue to bring unprecedented challenges. He knows the entire NFL is dealing with it.

“We’re not the Lone Ranger. Everybody in the league is going through this,” Gruden said. “It’s not going to be an equitable, fair season. Some teams are gonna be hit hard by this virus, some teams might not. Some teams might have fans, some teams might have cardboard cutouts.”

At this point, it is likely there won’t be any fans at Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders’ first season in Las Vegas. Gruden said he will understand if anyone in the organization opts out of this season and he will support the decisions. While coaches and teams couldn’t have any influence over player-run offseason workouts, Gruden was impressed that a large group of players worked out together for several weeks this spring in Las Vegas. Quarterback Derek Carr led the group and Gruden said the workouts were a “credit” to his QB’s leadership.