HENDERSON, Nev. — Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther lamented that his defense has been decimated with so many players on the reserve/COVID-19 list and self-isolating this week, ahead of Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I don’t know how we can beat these guys with a full lineup at practice, let alone three-fourths of your lineup not here all week,” Guenther said Thursday in his weekly video call with media.
“What don’t they have? We’re playing the world champs. What don’t they have? They have a great quarterback, great receivers, great tight ends, line is physical. And they’re coming off a bye, so it’s a daunting task.”
Ten of the 11 Raiders players currently on the COVID-19 list are defensive players: linebacker Cory Littleton; defensive ends Clelin Ferrell, Arden Key, Kendal Vickers and David Irving; defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Johnathan Hankins; safety Johnathan Abram; defensive back Lamarcus Joyner; and cornerback Isaiah Johnson. Offensive tackle Trent Brown is also on the list.
While only Littleton and Ferrell tested positive for the coronavirus, the other defensive players were deemed high-risk close contacts who must quarantine for five days from most recent contact. Should they test negative throughout the week, they will be eligible to play Sunday night.
The Raiders’ offensive line endured a similar waiting game the week prior to their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25, with left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Denzelle Good, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson not being cleared until game day.
“Well, it’s a little bit different,” Guenther said. “The offense had one position group that was kind of decimated for the week. We have guys at all three levels of our defense that aren’t here and practicing and in the meetings where you can look them in the eye. Or you can take him through things on the practice field, little tweaks or whatever it may be that this team does.”
As such, the quarantining players are taking part in video meetings, while missing out on live practice snaps.
Asked if he felt like Will Smith in the empty-house final scene of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow nodded his head and smiled.
“We played them earlier in the season and had success,” Morrow said of the Raiders’ 40-32 victory Oct. 11 at Arrowhead Stadium. “But when you play a division team, every time you play them it’s a different team, right? They’ve got new players, like [running back] Le’Veon Bell. They have new offensive linemen. So, you have to adjust your game plan and find your success that way.”
Said Guenther: “I know one thing, we’re going to show up at 5:20 [Pacific time] and we’re going to give 100 percent, because that’s what we do. We’ll get these guys ready to play. Whoever is out there at 5:20, they’ll be ready to go.”