Jon Gruden: Las Vegas move another hurdle in virtual offseason

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed reality for everyone in all walks of life.

Jon Gruden is among those adjusting on the fly while also attempting to best perform his duties as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

The change in that name alone -- Las Vegas -- adds another hurdle the rest of the NFL isn't dealing with. Gruden was candid in explaining the challenges associated with relocating a franchise amid a pandemic.

"You've got to remember, we're in transition," Gruden told The Mercury News' Jerry McDonald. "We're the only team that's changing locations. We've got to find new homes, new doctors, new places to shop. We've got to get acclimated to a completely different environment. Players are starting to find homes, and the more players that move to Las Vegas are slowly but surely getting to know each other and creatively keeping their distance and trying to get in some workouts."

Instead of falling back on the home established by a veteran playing in a familiar city, a whole team has been forced to figure out a contingency plan. Of course, the entire league is doing the same, considering everyone is restricted to working from home.

Gruden acknowledged there are limitations with video calling, of which he's doing a lot -- "We Zoom and we Zoom and we Zoom" -- and said there are challenges in fostering camaraderie that becomes an integral part of an NFL locker room. The bonds that carry players through the dog days of training camp are typically forged during OTAs and minicamp.

These days, they're doing so through a computer screen. It's not exactly the same as ribbing each other in the locker room after practice.

"You can't do that, because you can't see everybody while you're talking," Gruden said of building relationships with individual players. "You're speaking in the dark, really. It's hard to get 95, 100 people on one Zoom call. So what we've tried to do is have some brief team meetings, some brief offensive/defensive meetings and spend most of our time in small groups. Tight ends are with the tight end coach, quarterbacks are with the quarterback coach and defensive players are with their coaches as well individually."

Gruden spends most of his time with the quarterbacks, he said, and tries to replicate his trademark ability to get laughs and also inspire his players in the same meeting by inserting a few video clips to serve such a purpose. But the most ground the Raiders can cover in this time is mentally, Gruden said.

They'll need to be extra sharp in their knowledge of responsibilities whenever they can finally take the field. Gruden acknowledged there could be a drop-off in performance simply because of a lack of on-field time and leaned on the 2011 lockout as a prime example.

"There's no question. There's no way you can lose that many reps," Gruden said of the play following the work stoppage. "Things aren't going to be the same. So you might have to modify your installation. You might not be able to do as much. You can only adapt to what the circumstances are. And we don't know what the end game is with this circumstance. What we know is, we are preparing ourselves to go to training camp and play the regular season."

Gruden, much like everyone else, can only take things one day at a time. With all of the screen time, hopefully the coach will find himself a quality optometrist in Las Vegas.

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