NAPA, Calif. &
Lane Kiffin moves around the practice field slowly, instead of the way he usually pops from drill to drill. When the Oakland Raiders coach had something to tell one of his players, he'd call him aside and do it face-to-face instead of yelling it out for all to hear.
Kiffin was back at practice Wednesday after missing the previous two days while being hospitalized for a viral infection. But it was a very different Kiffin, who was under orders from his doctor not to yell or exert energy.
"I guess a lot of head coaches coach that way anyway, so I'm going to get to see what it's like," he said.
For the players, it was very strange to see their energetic 32-year-old coach acting so subdued as opposed his usual demeanor. They razzed him a bit, with some even wearing surgical masks to the team meeting before practice.
"I told him he should designate one of the trainers or something to be the person who yells for him but he didn't do it," said receiver Mike Williams, who has known Kiffin since the coach recruited him from high school to Southern California. "Just having him out there you could see the coaching staff was glad to have him back, the players were glad to have him back. Everybody was kind of throwing jokes at him. He's a part of our team. He's the leader. He's the face for this team. To have him back was big."
Kiffin said the doctors are "95 percent" sure he has mononucleosis and are treating him that way. Doctors are awaiting results of some final tests before they're sure of what Kiffin has. He lost 11 pounds while he was sick.
He said he doesn't view this as a wakeup call to cut down on the long hours he puts in as a coach, saying he could have caught it from his young children.
"I don't think that's it, I really don't," he said. "People are going to want to say that. Like 'Young coach, just overdid it.' I really don't think that's it, because I've been working like this for 12 years."
Kiffin first felt ill last Thursday and tried to work his way through it. The conditions got much worse Saturday, when he spent two hours in the dark in his office trying to rest up for that night's exhibition opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Kiffin said adrenalin helped him fight through the game, but he hit "rock bottom" after it was over.
He said he's never had a serious illness so figured he could recover with a night of rest and by drinking lots of fluids. He now admits he probably wasn't very "smart" about how he went about dealing with the illness.
"You're out on Saturday night, it gets a little cold and you're out there and you're exerting all that energy for, counting warmups, 41/2 hours," he said. "You're not helping the situation at all."
Kiffin woke up Sunday morning with a 103.7 temperature and was treated by trainer Rod Martin. Kiffin struggled to make it through team meetings that day and went to the hospital Monday morning.
"That Sunday was kind of scary at times," Kiffin said. "There were times when I was calling Rod from the phone by my bed because there wasn't any way I could move. I couldn't get out. The worst thing is I feel that it distracted from this team, it distracted from what we were supposed to be doing."
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan ran practice in Kiffin's absence. Kiffin watched practice film from his hospital room and got updates on the team from his assistants, but he acknowledged it was hard to focus on it at times when his body was so worn down from the illness.
Quarterback Andrew Walter said the assistants passed on messages to the players from Kiffin, but it was better to have the coach there in person, even if he wasn't his usual self.
"You could tell he's not 100 percent," quarterback Andrew Walter said. "He's obviously pretty tough being out here. They said he wasn't really supposed to be out here yet, but he is. So it shows me how much he cares."
Raiders coach Kiffin returns to team
NAPA, Calif. &