Raiders cut former 1st round pick Damon Arnette

damon arnette
Raiders defensive back Damon Arnette (20) warms up during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Henderson, Nev. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, Pool)

For the second time in less than a week, the Raiders have released a player due to off-the-field issues. On Monday, the team cut former first round pick Damon Arnette following the release of a video on social media in which the defensive back made death threats while holding a gun.

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said it was a “painful decision” to waive Arnette, who was picked in the first round of the 2020 draft along with Henry Ruggs III, who was waived last week after he was involved in a DUI car crash that took the life of the other driver.

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Oct 17, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock attends the NCAA football game between the Stanford Cardinal and the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“We spent significant time, effort and resources trying to help him in facets of his life,” Mayock said. “There have been a series of bad decisions over the last year or so, but we cannot stand for the video of Damon with a gun, threatening to take a life. The content was unacceptable, contrary to our values and our owner Mark Davis has been very clear and very consistent that this is not how we will conduct ourselves in this community. The bottom line, the Raiders will not tolerate this type of behavior.”

Arnette had been on injured reserve and played in only 13 games for the team since being drafted 19th overall out of Ohio State in the 2020 draft. Mayock said there were character concerns about Arnette going back to his college days, but the team had talked to his Ohio State coaches and felt they had the proper support system to take the risk on a talented prospect.

“Yeah, there was significant concern and most of the teams around the league were very aware of it,” Mayock said. “We spent an awful lot of time trying to understand his behavior and really what kind of tilted everything in the direction of, ‘OK, let’s go ahead and draft him’ was that we knew that coaching staff pretty well. We knew what they had asked him to do his last year at Ohio State. They felt very strongly that they knew who we had on our staff and that we’d be able to work with this young man, and not only help him on the football field, but help him in his life.

“Obviously in hindsight we weren’t able to do it. I know a lot of people, including myself, we were all concerned about this, but at the time we thought it was an acceptable risk and obviously it’s painful at all levels.”

damon arnette
Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette (from left) and cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. and safety Tre’von Moehrig exit the tunnel before playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Mayock said he has spoken with both Arnette and his father and still believes he has the ability to turn his life around and make a comeback in the NFL. Besides the video, there were also reports of Arnette being sued by two different parties related to leaving the scene of an auto collision and an altercation with a valet worker at a Las Vegas casino.

“From my perspective, he’s a very talented young man with a good heart,” Mayock said. “If he cleans up his life, I know he can make a living in the NFL. But not now with the Raiders. Having said all that, we’re going to open it up for a couple of questions and then we’re going to get back to business.”

Damon Arnette wasn’t only miss in 2020 draft

Arnette and Ruggs are just the most recent examples of what has turned out to be a disastrous draft for the Raiders in 2020. Ruggs was picked 12th overall out of Alabama and Arnette was chosen 19th out of Ohio State. Both have now been released, along with linebacker Tanner Muse who was just before the start of this season after being chosen in the fourth round. The Raiders also traded Lynn Bowden before he played a snap for the team as well.

damon arnette
Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette (from left) and cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. and safety Tre’von Moehrig exit the tunnel before playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The only three picks who remain on the team are wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who was picked in the third round, and fourth-rounders John Simpson (offensive line) and Amik Robertson (cornerback).

“So, am I sick to my stomach right now on a lot of levels?” Mayock said. “Yes. I mentioned we found the risk acceptable after doing more homework on Arnette than anybody we’ve done in the years I’ve been here, and obviously we missed. That is 100 percent on me.”

Las Vegas not to blame for player’s action

Mayock said the team always looks at how players will “fit” into the community. But he said it’s more about whether a kid who grew up in a rural community can adapt to life in a big city. He said the team has conversations about what kind of background a player has that and the team is always “aware of Vegas.”

“But my thing is this, in just about any mid- to big-size city in the country, if you want to find trouble, you can find it,” he said. “And our job is to find the kids that will get past that.”