Jon Gruden wanted to teach his Las Vegas Raiders players a lesson. So he tricked them into believing he was hospitalized with covid-19.

That’s according to a report Wednesday by NFL Network, whose Mike Garofalo said he was told that when Raiders players joined a Zoom meeting last week expecting to see their head coach, they instead were greeted by special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. He shared alarming news, telling players that the 56-year-old Gruden was hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has been attributed to the deaths of at least 154,000 people in the United States.

Except that Gruden did not have covid-19 and, as far as is publicly known, has not tested positive for the virus. His players reportedly were apprised of the truth of the situation shortly after Bisaccia sprang the surprise.

Gruden, according to NFL Network, simply wanted his team to experience something of a sneak preview of what may happen this season. That way, the reasoning went, the Raiders might be more mindful of the possibility that they or anyone around them could be infected.

A spokesman for the Raiders did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

As the NFL Network noted, Gruden’s reported hoax occurred before the Philadelphia Eagles confirmed that their head coach, Doug Pederson, contracted the coronavirus. Pederson, who led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win after the 2017 season, said Monday that he plans on running the team from afar and insisted that the Eagles still offered “a very safe environment.”

The 52-year-old Pederson added Monday that he had “no symptoms whatsoever.”

In response to the pandemic, the NFL canceled its in-person offseason activities and won’t stage any preseason games. The league still remains intent on beginning its season as scheduled on Sept. 10, and last week players began convening in person for the first time at their respective training camps.

The coronavirus testing that began at that point has resulted in over 90 players being placed on a newly created reserve list, both for those who have tested positive and those thought to have come into close contact with anyone who is infected. A number of players have already been activated off the list, including Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, whose wife complained on social media that her family was “harassed” over the situation despite the team confirming that Stafford was a victim of a “False-Positive” result.

Over 50 NFL players have also exercised an ability to opt out of the 2020 season that was negotiated between the league and its players’ union. That group include three members of the Raiders: linebacker Ukeme Eligwe, cornerback D.J. Killings and defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga.

The degree to which the coronavirus could massively disrupt the NFL’s plans has been made plain by MLB’s struggles to keep its season on track. Two teams, the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, have been hit with outbreaks, causing several missed games.

In contrast to the “bubble” approaches adopted by the NBA and NHL, which appear to be largely successful in the early going, the NFL is following MLB’s model of having its teams play in their home stadiums and travel for road games. That in turn has led NFL and MLB officials to stress the importance to players of exercising good judgment about their personal-time activities.

“What you do in the building is being evaluated. In the strength room and the training room, on the field, in the meeting rooms. We can’t evaluate everything you do off the field,” Gruden said on a media call last week.

“So we have a players’ committee and great leadership here that understands that one mistake can be our demise. One mistake can bring us all down in a real bad way.”

“We want to crush this virus,” Gruden added. “We want to beat it into the ground.”

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