Jon Gruden and the Raiders talk all the time about "crushing the virus" and taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously. For the most part, they are.
But what happened Monday night when quarterback Derek Carr and a few of his teammates were spotted at a fundraiser for tight end Darren Waller's foundation without masks while mingling with guests who also aren't wearing masks is unacceptable. Full stop.
Carr addressed what he and Gruden defined as a slip-up Wednesday when he read a statement to reporters and declined further comment about the incident. It was an apology that left a lot to be desired.
"I feel like, one, we've done a fantastic job around here," Carr told reporters. "I hate that a few moments without our masks on led to a story about our team and all this kind of stuff, especially after the fines that were brought on a couple of weeks ago. We felt terrible about that. We addressed it with coach and we talked with our trainers about what really went down and all that kind of stuff. At the end of the day we were there -- I mean, shoot guys, I've been having dinner and dates with my wife at my house. I haven't taken her out to eat all season, you know? There's a lot of kids running around my house and I think she's ready for a date night.
"We've been doing our very best and we had a few moments where we slipped up, took the masks off so people could see our face and stuff like that. We signed waivers, hand sanitizer like crazy. All this kind of stuff, we tried our best even at the event. We weren't perfect but we were trying our best. We weren't trying to be careless and reckless. But at the same time, Darren Waller had an event for something that meant a lot to him and they raised so much money that you won't even begin to imagine how much money they raised to help people with addiction to get them in the right place. My hope and my prayer is that a few moments of us messing up, a few minutes here where we were seen on camera, not in the private room in the separate room for an hour, things like that. I hope we don't lose what was really going on there. Because Darren had a great idea, a great plan. He wants to help people and I hope that we can more so put the conversation that way. Again, we've addressed it in house. We should have kept the mask on even if they are introducing us and things like that. But at the end of the day, I hope the story is more about what Darren is trying to accomplish."
To start off, the story would have only been about Waller's noble efforts to raise money -- over $300,000 according to Gruden -- if Carr and the rest of the Raiders had followed the protocols laid out for them. Waller, by all accounts, kept his mask on for the duration of the event.
No one is taking anything away from Waller and the wonderful work his foundation works to accomplish.
But Carr needs to understand the gravity of what "one slip up" can mean. COVID-19 is a highly contagious airborne virus that doesn't pick and choose who it affects based on how often they follow the rules, or their status in life or if their wife wants a date night out. And one slip up can not only derail the Raiders' season, but it can also have long-term health ramifications for any number of people should a member of the Raiders contract the virus at the event and then spread it around to their family, other players, coaches or team personnel.
All of a sudden, the Raiders doing a good job at "crushing the virus" is negated because of one slip-up. That's all it takes. Yes, NFL players are being tested regularly. But the problem is that a person can often test negative if they are in the early stages of the disease and then test positive a few days later. There's still a lot we have to learn about the virus.
So it's a dangerous gambit to go to a crowded indoor fundraiser where people aren't wearing masks and take your mask off (even briefly) to mingle with them. It's a decision that can not only affect Carr and the Raiders, but anyone who comes in contact with someone they come in contact with. It's a contact tracing nightmare waiting to happen.
The NFL shut down the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings after the Titans reported nine positive tests as of Wednesday. The Buffalo Bills are preparing to fly to Las Vegas to play the Raiders on Sunday. The NFL's margin for error, like society's, is razor-thin. Everyone needs to pull their weight all the time or else it all comes crumbling down.
Bills star cornerback Tre' Davious White said the video of Carr and other Raiders not wearing masks at the gathering "raised antennas."
Of course, it did. The Bills are following the same protocols as everyone else to take care of themselves and their families and they see some of their opponents neglecting guidelines meant to keep everyone safe. It would ruffle any sane person's feathers. The stakes are too high to have "slip-ups" during a global pandemic.
Right now, a slip-up or an error in judgment can have grave consequences for any number of people. The reason the COVID-19 situation is much worse in American as opposed to other developed nations is because a large sect of the population has disregarded the protocols thinking that it only puts them in danger. That in turn has put the burden on the rest of the population to wear masks, wash their hands and social distance in order to hold society up like a suspension bridge straining to hold up too much weight.
To get through the pandemic, everyone really does have to work together. That means wearing masks and social distancing. It means not being able to go out to dinner if you can't do it safely. It's been hard on everyone. Over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives and over 1 million worldwide.
Doing the job 98 percent of the time is admirable. But it needs to be 100. There are too many real-world consequences for not doing something as simple as wearing a piece of cloth over your face.
Raiders owner Mark Davis wasn't pleased with the sight of his players not following the rules.
"Guys have to be more stringent in fighting the virus," Davis told ESPN. "It's still our toughest opponent."
Carr knows that and I don't think he meant to be so cavalier about the health and safety protocols during the once-in-a-lifetime global health crisis. Humans make mistakes. It's understandable.
But these kinds of slip-ups can't happen. Carr knows that and he, like the rest of us, has to be better at being vigilant in stamping out the virus.