If there's one guarantee in this life it's that anytime there's an NFL training camp season that involves Jon Gruden, Jon Gruden will dominate the news of that training camp season. Like a 3-point contest that includes Larry Bird, every other figure in the NFL is shooting for second place.
So it comes as a surprise to no one who remembers last year's camp and his performance on "Hard Knocks" that stole every scene, Gruden has already gone way out in front of everyone else with this story that he pretended to have Covid, just to scare his players straight on the dangers of Covid. Something Big Tennessee captured so well last night.
Personally, I've got a long and storied history when it comes to faking illnesses, from my time working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Every time they invented a new disease, I was happy because that was another thing I could bang in sick to work with. And I'm not just talking about getting a crown put in by my pretend dentist, Dr. Crentist:
I mean I made up having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Fibromyalgia. Irritable Bowl Syndrome. Monkey Pox. Restless Leg. Menstrual cramps. Tourette's. ("Hi, it's Jerry ASS! I won't be coming today. SHIT!" Until they made me hang up the phone.) One time I just wanted the day off and forgot to come up with an ailment and when they asked me what was wrong me with, I said the first thing that popped into my head, "I've got … um … Erectile Dysfunction."
But even I had a code of ethics. I never claimed one of my kids was sick when he wasn't and I'm a big believer in not faking illnesses that are potentially fatal, especially in the middle of a pandemic. That just seems like bad juju to me. Like you're just inviting the virus to come get you. The difference between me and Jon Gruden though is that I was a lazy, apathetic state employee just trying to do the bare minimum to receive my contractually obligated, non-merit-based pay raise, and he's a hyper-competitive, insanely driven Alpha who'd do anything to win. In other words, a Football Guy.
Which begs the question, how far would Gruden go to help the Raiders? Are there limits to his fakery? Would he ever be concerned about losing credibility in his players' eyes by crying wolf again? Or worried about karma making it actually happen?
Were it any other Football Guy, this is not even a question. It's impossible to imagine a Pete Carroll or a Mike Tomlin lying about having anything, much less the 'Vid. Tony Dungy would've considered it a venal sin. But those men are not Jon Grundens. In his case, I can see him doing anything. No disease is too deadly to fake. No fiction too outrageous to concoct. No lengths the man would not go to to create a competitive edge.
I can absolutely envision a 100% able-bodied Gruden pulling into practice in a wheelchair, like those people who put one family member in one at Disney World so the whole group can cut line. Or him laying in a hospital bed surrounded by his team, delivering the "Win one for the Chucky" speech when the chips are down and the breaks are beating the boys. Or flat out faking his death on the morning of a big game like they did with Glen in "Talladega Nights":
I've always believed this about Gruden. And this corona-gag is just the latest proof my instincts have been right all along. This is just another reason why the man is our most precious natural resource.