Jon Gruden is not a man who puts perceived slights in the rear-view mirror. So when the topic of mask-wearing came up Monday night, Gruden went ahead and told everyone what he thought they should know.
“I had the virus, OK?
It was the last question Gruden took during a nine-minute post-game press conference after a 34-24 win over the New Orleans Saints. There were no followups. Just a lot of people who were reporting on a big Raiders win who suddenly had a surprise story dropped in their lap.
When Gruden met the media on Zoom Tuesday, he wasn’t of a mind to be expansive about his experience with COVID-19. And if Gruden had heard the NFL fined him $100,000 for not properly wearing a mask in violation of an NFL mandate, he didn’t volunteer the information.
“I don’t want to get into it really,” Gruden said. “It wasn’t pleasant. It was reported that I made up that I had the virus and it really ticked me off, because I would never do something like that. But it’s a very serious matter, and obviously I’m sensitive about it. It was a tough deal, that’s for sure, just like everybody else that’s had it.”
In a text message exchange Monday night, Gruden said “Tired of (people) saying I faked it” and that he’d had the virus in the middle of July.
That news cycle, however, had already passed. The NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo on Aug. 5 was first to report that Rich Bisaccia had addressed the team in a virtual meeting and informed them that Gruden had COVID-19, with the idea being that they should be ready for anything and that the threat was real.
Gruden took a lot of heat in aggregated stories for “faking” the virus for use as a stunt for his team. That’s how it works on the Internet. Stories are re-written all the time with little to no reporting done. Nobody suggested Gruden had ever been sick because he never said so.
To Gruden, having Bisaccia address the team imparted a valuable lesson, given that he’d had a personal experience with the it. He even had “Crush the Virus” T-shirts produced for team and staff.
The whole story had pretty much gone away until he was asked about coaches Kyle Shanahan, Pete Carroll and Vic Fangio getting hefty fines for not wearing masks Sunday.
Gruden apologized, but said he had to be able to communicate with his team. When it became clear he would be perceived as being cavalier about a serious illness, Gruden just figured he’d go ahead and put it out there.
“I had the virus, OK?”
Six weeks after the report that made Gruden angry, he set the record straight.
Apparently there’s no statute of limitations on being ticked off.
Fighters and believers. This team is building something special.
In the raucous postgame locker room, Raiders.com filmed a postgame celebration featuring Gruden that was part football drill, part ritualistic celebration.
“I don’t know how that gets out there, I really don’t,” Gruden said. “I was a high school football player and that’s what we did. Reaction drills, Get everybody to react quickly together. It’s an old-school exercise that we do sometimes to have some creative fun together.
CARR FINDING END ZONE
Carr doesn’t need to say “I told you so,” and it would be too early anyway after two games. He just needs to keep producing points and all will be right with the world.
Through two games, the Raiders have eight touchdowns and four field goals in 18 possessions and just one turnover — the Jalen Richard fumbled pitch against the Saints. After breaking 34 points only once in the previous two years (45-42 over Cleveland in 2018), the Raiders have put up 34 points in back to back games.
“If we want to be all excited and feel good about ourselves because people are saying nice things now, then we’re going to go lose to the Patriots on a short week and lose,” Carr said Monday night. “Coach (Bill ) Belichick has a day up on me already. I got to get to studying.”
BELICHICK ON GRUDEN
Belichick is the only coach who’s been around long enough to have coached against Gruden during his first go-round with the Raiders. I asked him if there’s much different about the Gruden system and here was his response:
“His system is basically the same, but Jon does a great job of adapting to his personnel and utilizingthe weapons that he has,” Belichick said during a conference call. “He does as good a job as anybody, he does a great job. He’ll put his guys in position and utilize them like he always does. He’s a very creative guy, very creative coach. He does an excellent job of game planning and strategizing. They’re also a very fundamental team that executes well. Really well coached team.”
With the offense dominating time of possession, the Raiders defense was able to stop the Saints on three drives in the late first and early second half that helped win the game on a night when the Saints averaged 7.4 yards per snap. The Raiders also gave too much ground in Week 1 against Carolina for Gruden’s liking.
“We possesed the ball almost 37 minutes,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to play better on defense. We did do some good things, but we didn’t start very well and we didn’t finish very well. The standard is high here. We did do some good things but we still can play better.”
SIMPSON’S BIG NIGHT
Rookie left guard John Simpson played 69 snaps after Richie Incognito departed with a sore Achilles that had bothered him throughout the week. He’d weathered a difficult practice while giving Incognito a breather where Gruden admitted to being particularly hard on the fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson.
“We put him in some tough spots on Wednesday and he had his struggles, but he learned some valuable lessons,” Gruden said. “He got thrust into a real tough situation. He did OK in there. He handled those situations very well. I give Rodney Hudson and Kolton Miller a lot of credit for playing really good next to him.”
Incognito’s availability against New England Sunday is uncertain, although the NFL Network reported his injury was not believed to be serious.
Nostalgia’s great and all, but had to be amused at ESPN play-by-play announcer Steve Levy’s assertion that “Al Davis has to be smiling ear to ear” at the sight of Allegiant Stadium.
C’mon. Breaking in to wide grins was never Al’s thing. At best it was half smile, half sneer. It was part of his charm, if such a term could ever be applied to Al Davis.