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Las Vegas Raiders Interim Head Coach Rich Bisaccia

Steve Marcus

Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders Rich Bisaccia speaks with reporters after practice at the Raiders Headquarters/Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in Henderson Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

Rich Bisaccia’s footsteps thumped, and the air conditioning hummed.

Those were the only sounds that echoed through the packed Raiders’ media room Wednesday afternoon as the interim coach took to the podium. Bisaccia then read a prepared statement in his first public comment since former receiver Henry Ruggs III was arrested on counts of DUI and reckless driving early Tuesday morning after a fiery crash that killed a woman.

“First of all, we want to express our sincere condolences to the victim’s family,” Bisaccia said. “A person lost their life yesterday morning and we think it’s important to keep focus on that as we talk about this tragic event. We’re deeply saddened for everyone effected, especially the victim’s family. That being said, we love Henry Ruggs. We want him to know that. His terrible lapse in judgment of the most horrific kind is something that he’ll have to live with for the rest of his life. The gravity of the situation is not lost on anyone here and we understand and respect the loss of life.”

Football felt secondary, in quarterback Derek Carr’s own words, but the Raiders had to officially start preparations for their Week 9 game at the Giants Wednesday morning at the same time Ruggs was in court for a preliminary hearing. It was the team’s first practice in nearly two weeks coming off a bye week where part of Bisaccia’s message to his players was to “be really smart.”

More than three hours before the team began stretching, several television cameras lined up outside team headquarters in Henderson. For the second time in three weeks — following the resignation of coach Jon Gruden for offensive e-mails — a somber mood prevailed and overshadowed anything happening on the field.

“My heart goes out so much, and to try to say that with a straight face because I’ve already been emotional about this, to the family, all the families involved,” Carr said. “No one ever wants to see this whether it’s a football player or not. It broke my wife and I’s heart honestly. We talked about it a little bit, but I can only talk about it so much. But at the same time, whether it’s fair or not, I have to compartmentalize and I have a job to do. These are two totally different situations. Some similar emotions. Some very different emotions but the message has to stay the same.”

“When it comes to this situation, there are so many things out of my control, but then I do sit back and think, ‘Was there something (I could have done)? Did I not let him know that he really could, (that) I’d be there for him at 3 a.m.?’ I want to be better. I really look at everything in my life as a learning experience — Could I have been better to help?”

Neither Carr nor Bisaccia had spoken to Ruggs since the incident. Bisaccia declined to say what message he would eventually impart but Carr offered support.

“I will always be here for him,” Carr said. “That won’t change. I’ll prove that over the course of time to him, not to anybody else. But he needs people to love him right now. He’s probably feeling a certain type of way about himself right now and he needs to be loved. And if no one else will do it, I’ll do it.”  

Carr saw Ruggs Monday during a team meeting and heard from him a few hours before the crash. Ruggs, who was reportedly attending an event at Topgolf on Monday night, texted Carr and receiver Hunter Renfrow a video of his golf swing.

“Just seeing that and getting the news when we woke up, I don’t even know how I’m supposed to handle that, how I’m supposed to react,” Carr said.

Tuesday is a league-mandated off day, but several players showed up to the facility to speak with coaches as they heard the news. Bisaccia then organized a full team Zoom call because he thought it was important for his players to hear from him and avoid misinformation.

He eventually joined an executive meeting where owner Mark Davis decided Ruggs’ immediate release was the best course of action for the franchise.

“I think there are two separate entities,” Bisaccia said. “There’s Henry Ruggs the football player who is no longer a part of the Raiders and then Henry Ruggs the person who’s going through what’s he going through and he’s going to have to pay the consequences for the actions.”

Ruggs was in the middle of a breakout year in his second season as the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver with a team-high 469 receiving yards on 24 catches. His arrest and dismissal leaves a void on the roster, as the Raiders now have only three active receivers (Renfrow, Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones).

Bisaccia said the team would possibly elevate undrafted rookie receiver Dillon Stoner to the active roster from the practice squad before the Giants’ game. Jones is now listed as the starter at Ruggs’ former position on the depth chart.

But, despite a practice performance that both Bisaccia and Carr praised, there wasn’t much talk about football on Wednesday. For the second time this season, there was a larger issue to address. 

“We’re dealing with a lot of things this year, that’s for sure,” Carr said. “A lot of guys just, ‘What a crazy year.’ I heard that a couple of times. I heard, ‘Good gracious. Man, can we please (have) nothing else?’ Not for our own sake but for the sake of everyone else, for the sake of everyone involved.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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