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Jon Gruden talks coronavirus adaptations, playing without fans and keys to defense

Raiders coach praises his players for arriving at training camp prepared: “I’ve been impressed by the retention,” Gruden tells the media

Oakland Raiders v. Los Angeles Chargers
Jon Gruden
Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Las Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden shared more details on how the team are tackling the unique challenges of playing football during a pandemic on Thursday — and the prospect of opening their new stadium without fans (rest assured that you will all me missed this season).

To combat the coronavirus, Gruden said the Raiders have split the coaching staff into two groups and then rotate working with players, and he is pleased how it is going. Gruden praised the team for coming to training camp prepared despite not having on-field work in the offseason. It was all done virtually.

“I’ve been impressed by the retention,” Gruden told the media on a Zoom call Thursday morning. “We don’t have guys who like football, they love it.”

Gruden also expressed “disappointment” that there won’t be any fans at Allegiant Stadium this season, but he understands it and he knows it’s happening around the league.

“We want to cut it loose with our new fan base,” he added.

In addition to improving near the goal line, Gruden feels the Raiders’ offense needs more possession. That falls on the defense. Gruden said, simply, the defense has to create more three-and-outs to get the ball back into the hands of Derek Carr and the offense.

Gruden continued to heap praise on free-agent defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who signed a one-year deal this offseason. Gruden said Collins, 25, is just now entering his prime and Gruden said he is the “key to the defense.”

The coach also, unprompted, talked up undrafted rookie linebacker Javin White, as someone who is looking good. White is from Oakland and played at UNLV. Perhaps he can squeeze onto the roster. It would be a great story.

Aug. 17 is going to be quite the day. Not only is it Gruden’s 57th birthday, but is the first day teams can put on pads for practice. “What a day that is going to be,” he quipped.

Gruden also called the Raiders’ new facility in Henderson, a “football factory.” That got me thinking: