Gruden's cavalier mask attitude epitomizes American problem

Jon Gruden
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Jon Gruden knows the rules, and more importantly, he has suffered the consequences when it comes to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Raiders coach admitted after Monday night's win over the New Orleans Saints at Allegiant Stadium that he previously had the coronavirus and was trying his best to wear his mask as much as possible.

Gruden was asked to elaborate on his bout with COVID-19 on Tuesday, but he didn't say much, just that he was upset about a previous report from NFL Media that he made up having contracted the virus to impress upon his team the importance and seriousness of the virus.

"I don’t want to get into it, really," Gruden told reporters Tuesday. "It wasn’t pleasant. And 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, you know, obviously, I’m sensitive about it. But yeah, it was a tough ordeal, that’s for sure. Just like everybody else that’s had it.”

First things first, I'm glad Jon Gruden recovered from a virus that can have deadly complications. That's most important.

But now that he has experienced it, I expect him to take the NFL safety protocols a little more seriously than rules at a frat house.


Despite having been infected with COVID-19, Gruden still has trouble keeping his mask on. For all his intellect as an offensive mastermind, his uncanny ability to create innovative plays that dissect defenses no matter the personnel, Gruden can't seem to grasp that the mask must be around his mouth and nose and not his chin, where its only purpose is to collect the spit that comes from his Chucky snarls.

Yes, he gets excited, pumped up and angry. He wants to yell and curse. Yes, masks are uncomfortable and get hot, sticky and gross. None of those defenses are good enough, especially from someone who has contracted the virus and knows how real the threat is.

“I’m doing my best,” Gruden said after Monday night's win about wearing a mask. “I’m very sensitive about it, but I’m calling plays. I just want to communicate in these situations.”

That's not going to cut it. The NFL didn't buy it either, as the league fined both the Saints and Raiders $250,000 each, and hit Gruden and Saints coach Sean Payton, who was sporting his gaiter like a turtleneck, $100,000 each for not properly wearing their masks.

Yes, Gruden and Payton have both contracted the virus and the research on reinfection remains inconclusive.

The bigger issue is the optics of the matter. The NFL has gone to great lengths to pull this season off amid a once-in-a-generation public health crisis. They have trudged on as businesses remain shuttered and over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus. They don't want the faces of their league to not adhere to protocols that everyday Americans are asked to follow.

The even bigger issue the NFL undoubtedly is worried about is the message that could send to its players. If their coaches aren't going to follow simple rules, why should they? The NFL reported zero positive COVID-19 tests after Week 1, a huge step in pulling off the season. But they can't relax, and that's why the NFL dropped the hammer on Gruden, Payton, Kyle Shanahan and other coaches who didn't properly wear their masks.

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Gruden, Payton, Shanahan and all the coaches who are front and center on millions of television sets every Sunday have an obligation to set an example for a society still unwilling to come together to stamp out the virus.

Jon Gruden means well, there's no doubt about it. He said all the right things in the preseason about beating the virus being more important than anything else. But he's going to have to start doing his part as a public figure and set an example for those still claiming masks don't help.

Before the season started, Gruden said he wanted to "be part of beating the virus into the dirt." In order to do that, it's time he does what everyone else in society has been asked to do: Mask up.