After the Las Vegas Raiders handed the Kansas City Chiefs their first loss in 337 days, Jon Gruden sat down for the postgame videoconference looking like a Wild West outlaw.
“Can I take this off?” he politely asked his public relations man before slipping off his black bandana face mask.
Gruden wore the face covering properly in all but three of the 50 times he was shown on the CBS broadcast Sunday, and during two of those transgressions he quickly pulled it back over his nose.
That was a 180-degree switch for Gruden, one of five NFL head coaches fined $100,000 last month for failing to abide by the league’s mask rules.
Last week against the Bills, Gruden was shown more times (20) violating the NFL's coronavirus safety rules requiring noses and mouths to be covered than he was shown in compliance (19) with the COVID-19 mitigation measures.
The other coaches who were dinged -- and their teams docked $250,000 -- for shoddy mask also learned their expensive lessons.
They all started complying in Week 3, when Broncos coach Vic Fangio began donning a face shield like Andy Reid. Saints coach Sean Payton was wearing his mask properly 32 of 35 times he was shown on the telecast last week against the Lions, and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was 100% in compliance during the 35 times he was shown against Philadelphia.
And Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had his mask on last week against Miami for all but a handful of sideline shots. He, too, pulled it back over his nose most of those times he was shown in violation.
This is a good thing not only for their pocketbooks and reputations but for the league as a whole because the Tennessee Titans’ COVID-19 mess began with an assistant coach testing positive for the virus last month.
It shows the coaches and players are all in this together.
Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who last spring became the biggest sports star to announce he'd contracted the coronavirus, said he's not surprised the league's mask mandate got off to a rocky start.
“It’s just humanity, it’s not one person’s fault,” said Miller, who aims to return from an ankle injury in December. “It’s hard to get everybody on the same page. You see people not even playing sports, you ask them to wear a mask and they go all crazy. They say, ‘They’re taking away my freedom.’
“When it comes over to football, it takes time to get everybody aware. Everybody’s experience is different with COVID-19. I’ve had the virus. I know how serious it is," Miller said. "I keep my mask on. I walk around and try to keep everybody safe.
“You have somebody that doesn’t have anybody affected by the virus, it doesn’t hit the same with them. It takes time and an awareness to get everybody on the same page,” Miller added. “I don’t blame the coaches for not wearing masks. It just takes a little bit of time to get everybody on the same page.”
That, and some hefty fines.
BRADY’S BRAIN LOCK
Tom Brady has clearly gotten over his gaffe.
The Buccaneers quarterback congratulated LeBron James on his fourth NBA title and NBA Finals MVP award Monday by making fun of his fourth-down flub that sealed Tampa Bay’s 20-19 loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
“Congrats to my brother @KingJames on winning his 4th championship. Not bad for a washed up old guy!” Brady tweeted with a doctored photo that had James’ face on Brady’s body holding up four fingers.
Brady looked like he lost track of downs when he threw a long incomplete pass to a well-covered tight end on fourth down when a check-down pass to his running back easily could have picked up the first down and kept the Bucs’ last-minute drive alive.
When the Bears trotted back onto the field in celebration, a puzzled Brady held up four fingers as he asked the official something. Afterward, Brady ducked questions about whether he hadn’t realized it was fourth down.
Brady’s brain lock naturally got the meme treatment on social media with many posters suggesting he wasn’t the first new Floridian to have a senior moment. Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool trolled him Sunday after scoring four touchdowns, posting a photo of him holding up four fingers with a puzzled look a la Brady.
Brady showed he can laugh at himself when he congratulated James — and in the process reminded everyone he’s not that bad himself for a fellow “washed up old guy.”
With contributions from AP Sports Writer Pat Graham.
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Arnie Stapleton, The Associated Press