HENDERSON, Nev. -- Jon Gruden was exasperated.
The Las Vegas Raiders coach, still licking the mental wounds of a thumping by the New England Patriots on Sunday, was ticking off the names of his players who were physically wounded and unable to play. And not just against the Patriots. It's been a theme since training camp.
Veteran receiver Tyrell Williams (shoulder)
Left guard Richie Incognito (Achilles)
Middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (pec)
"You start to wonder, what the hell's going on?" Gruden said.
Especially since the NFL season is only three games old.
And that's not counting the likes of rookie cornerback Damon Arnette -- who reaggravated his broken right thumb in the loss to the Patriots and was scheduled to see a hand specialist this week, according to NFL Network -- or rookie linebacker Tanner Muse, who is already on injured reserve with a toe injury suffered in training camp.
Same with $7.5 million backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, who suffered a pectoral strain in camp and, like Muse, is now eligible to enter the 21-day evaluation window. Indeed, Mariota practiced on Wednesday and his 21-day evaluation window opened, at the end of which the Raiders have to either activate him or place him on season-ending IR. Still, neither Mariota nor Muse address immediate needs for what currently ails the Raiders, who are 2-1 but with so many injured players and an upcoming schedule that has the undefeated Buffalo Bills and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs the next two games. The Week 6 bye cannot get here soon enough.
"Yeah, I think Marcus is close," Gruden said. "That's another guy that has missed a lot of time, that had a freak injury. He looks good right now.
"So, confident that Marcus is on the way back."
Asked about the number of injuries and how that affected the Raiders against the Patriots, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was unimpressed.
"You know me, no excuse, man," Carr said. "Just blame me. I'm used to it."
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs elaborated.
"That's life in the NFL, I think," he said. "I don't know anybody that's been in this league for a long time, or that plays in this league, that comes into a game fully healthy. It's just the nature of the game.
"We've got to learn how to take care of ourselves better, whether it's nutrition or going in there with the trainers and getting extra PT [physical therapy] and things like that. Just try to come in here and get a competitive edge."
Incognito will be eligible to come off IR after the bye, and the fact that neither Brown nor Kwiatkoski were placed on IR after being injured in the season-opening win at Carolina suggests the Raiders thought they would be back sooner.
And yet, here we are.
Hey, things could be worse. The Raiders could be the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers have already placed five defensive starters on injured reserve: S Derwin James, CB Chris Harris, Jr., DE Melvin Ingram, LB Dru Tranquill and DT Justin Jones.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 29, 2020
This on top of 2 offensive captains in C Mike Pouncey (IR) & QB Tyrod Taylor (chest) missing multiple games.
The Raiders had 16 players on the injury report Wednesday, which was the second-highest among the 28 teams that released injury reports.
Gruden, meanwhile, said he was "concerned" about Ruggs and Edwards, and both missed practice Wednesday and could be out for the forseeable future.
“They’re our starters, so it does affect you emotionally,” Gruden said. “You’re not as happy as you would be if you had your starters out there. If it’s another player, so be it. We have a lot of confidence in [Nelson] Agholor, we’ve said that from the very beginning. Zay Jones will get a chance to go up against his former teammates. We all know [Hunter] Renfrow can play. We’ll find somebody to fill in, but we need some guys to get healthy quick.
"We are missing a number of key ingredients to the stew right now, and those are two big guys that we need back.
Kwiatkoski practiced Wednesday for the first time since getting hurt in the season-opening win at Carolina.
"But this is the National Football League," Gruden added. "It's for mentally tough men. We're all professionals. We're all getting paid. We need some young guys to step up, so be it."