Did he or didn’t he? That’s the question many are asking about Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and whether or not he actually contracted the COVID-19 virus as he now claims. While no one has questioned other NFL coaches like New Orleans’ Sean Payton or Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson, the Las Vegas head coach’s situation is very different because of a prank he played this summer regarding the virus. Inquiring minds want to know, did Jon Gruden have the virus?
Jon Gruden faked infection to teach team a lesson
Like many NFL head coaches, Jon Gruden is well known for his “next man up” philosophy. If one player goes down, there must be another ably waiting to take his place. In early August, that’s the message Gruden tried to send to his players, albeit in a very strange way.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo, Gruden organized an intricate scheme via Zoom to remind his players that they needed to take the COVID-19 virus seriously.
“The Raiders players logged on to a Zoom call last week expecting to see Jon Gruden, and instead they saw Rich Bisaccia, the special teams coach and assistant head coach,” Garofolo said. “Bisaccia told them, ‘Guys, Coach Gruden has COVID and he’s at the hospital now being taken care of,’ and the players were taken aback. They shortly thereafter told them, ‘You know what, we’re just putting you on a little bit,’ and it wasn’t a joke, what it was was the team illustrating to the players this could happen at any moment to anybody.”
While Jon Gruden had good intentions, it’s unclear if there was ever any thought about the future, if he did, in fact, become infected, how the players or anyone else might react to his situation given the stunt. In simple terms — boy crying wolf.
Other NFL coaches have been infected
While Jon Gruden used his fake diagnosis of COVID-19 as an exercise to teach his players a lesson on preparedness, several other NFL coaches did get infected in the offseason, including Sean Payton, Doug Pederson, and Anthony Lynn.
In March, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was not only the first NFL head coach to publicly announce his diagnosis but the first known person associated with the league to be infected with the virus. In early August, Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson announced his diagnosis.
The most surprising announcement came from LA Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, who shared his diagnosis during an episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, which, like Jon Gruden’s prank, caught his players off guard.
Jon Gruden surprisingly admits he had virus; upset others doubt him
Following the Las Vegas Raiders’ Monday night victory over Payton’s Saints, Jon Gruden was asked by reporters why he wasn’t properly wearing his mask on the sidelines as required by NFL protocols. Coincidentally, during the game, news broke that the league had fined multiple coaches for not wearing masks during Sunday’s contests.
“I’m doing my best,” Gruden told reporters. “I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it … I’m calling plays. I just wanna communicate in these situations, and if I get fined, I’ll have to pay the fine, but I’m very sensitive about that, and I apologize.”
The Las Vegas Raiders head coach’s admission caught everyone by surprise, especially after what had transpired in August with the Zoom call. On Tuesday, Jon Gruden further addressed having the virus with the media.
“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 doing something like that. It’s a very serious matter and obviously I’m sensitive about it. Yeah, that was a tough ordeal. That’s for sure. Just like everybody else that’s had it.”
An unhappy Chucky scowl is a scary visual. An unhappy and sickly Chucky is even scarier. It’s probably better we didn’t know.