By losing some weight, Redskins’ Gruden takes a load o≠ his mind
richmond — Here at Camp Svelte, the Washington Redskins boast many fitness feats. Trent Williams, the star left tackle, went (somewhat) vegan and lost his jolly cushioning. Junior Galette, the snakebit linebacker, dropped 24 pounds after recovering from two Achilles’ tendon tears that robbed him of the past two seasons. Rob Kelley, the running back wrongfully nicknamed “Fat Rob” as a child, now looks like he ought to go by “Non-Fat Rob.”
In the background stands Coach Jay Gruden, celebrating his players’ commitment and flashing an aw-shucks grin when he is asked about his own transformation. Gruden is quietly disappearing, too. You see it in the cheekbones resurfacing on his face. You see it in the absence of his tummy, which must have been shipped to the Bermuda Triangle.
At the end of last season, Gruden weighed 241 pounds. On Monday, he reported proudly that he is down to 218. It’s the lightest he has been since 1991, when he was a 24-year-old, 215-pound quarterback starting his Arena Football League career with the Tampa Bay Storm.
“You want to know how I did it?” Gruden said, smiling. “You’re going to have to pay extra for that, man. You’re going to have to YouTube my video, and it’s going to cost you $39.95.”
Gruden will get to the “how” later. It’s the “why” that matters most to him.
While his players alter their bodies to compete in a game full
of world-class athletes, Gruden has a more relatable motivation. He was aching because of the extra weight on his 6-foot-2 frame. His blood pressure was high. He was a little embarrassed. He turned 50 in March, and he was tired of making excuses. He needed to do something or risk slipping from husky to obese.
“I just didn’t feel healthy,” Gruden said. “I hit 50 years old, and maybe it was part midlife crisis. I don’t know. Who knows? You start looking around, and people are walking the streets, and you see people that are your age, and they look better and younger and healthier. And you’re like, ‘[Expletive], I shouldn’t be this big.’ ”
Two years ago, CBS Sports radio host Scott Ferrall called Gruden a “fat ass” on the air. After learning of the cheap shot, Gruden referenced it during his next news conference. The comical coach tried to have fun with it, but the words bothered him.
“I really dislike the guy that called me a fat ass,” Gruden said then with a laugh. “That really ticked me off. I don’t mind you critiquing my coaching style, but to make fun of my weight, that’s unfair. I’m only 225.”
As he recalled the exchange last week, Gruden was still upset.
“I’ve never considered myself, like, fat,” he said. “I know I’m thick and a little heavy at times.”
A more persuasive comment came at the end of last season. Anthony Lanier, a young defensive end who needs to add weight and strength to realize his potential, was honest with Gruden.
“Man, Coach, you’re too big right now,” Lanier said.
The coach and player made a bet. Gruden vowed to lose as much weight, if not more, than Lanier gained. Gruden won. He is down 23 pounds. Lanier is up 22.
“But he’s not paying me,” Gruden said, jokingly cursing at the player. “I told him I’ll take the money when he gets his next contract.”
Gruden won’t charge $39.95 for his weight-loss secrets because he didn’t really do anything special. Over the past few months, he has paid more attention to what he is eating and begun exercising. That’s it, basically. He started by supplementing his breakfast with “a shot of apple cider vinegar” in the morning. That helped him lose four pounds in the first week or so. Since then, he has been committed to a balanced diet and regular exercise. He has been amazed at the results.
“I did it because I was sore all over,” Gruden said. “My joints were sore. My ankle, my knee. I’ve had shoulder issues. And I’ve used that as an excuse for not working out or exercising. Then I lost an initial four pounds. I felt a lot better, and then I kept going. I started eating better, watching portion control, not eating late at night. And then the more I lost, the better my joints felt, so I was able to exercise more. It’s amazing.”
For years, Gruden thought football — multiple injuries, multiple surgeries — was to blame for his aches. He would wake up some mornings and struggle to walk to the bathroom because his Achilles’ tendon was sore. He had platelet-rich plasma injections in his knees. He took anti-inflammatory medication to get through the daily grind of coaching. But now that he is almost back to his playing weight, he feels good.
It sounds easy, but in a reality all too familiar to many people (myself included), it’s easier to remain unaware and mindlessly punish your body by indulging in the wrong foods and save the workouts for another day. Despite being a former high-level athlete, Gruden succumbed to bad habits.
Food is always available at the team’s practice facility in Ashburn, and Gruden munched often. His job is active for about two hours of practice, but the bulk of his day is spent in meetings and sitting in rooms watching film late into the night.
“The choices that you have at lunch and dinner are pretty big at our place,” Gruden said. “I would go out and have a sensible lunch, and then we’d always have pizza there, and I’d take a couple of pieces of pizza, and I’d take a cookie upstairs.
“Now I just have a small plate and I get the hell out of there, as much as I want to eat the pizza because it’s so damn good.”
During training camp, Gruden used to bike 31/2 miles from the hotel in Richmond to the team’s site. This year, he started walking every morning. Then he advanced to jogging and walking. On Monday, he ran the entire way for the first time. Earlier in camp, he played quarterback and danced in the pocket for the entirety of a long pass rush drill. He is not a coach who has to stand back and evaluate anymore.
“Last year, I couldn’t do any of that,” Gruden said. “I didn’t do any of that hardly because I was sore. Last year, I couldn’t even walk from the hotel to work. I never even tried walking it. Now I ran the whole way, and I didn’t stop. That’s how good my joints feel.”
Gruden looked away and said softly, “Let’s hope I don’t put it back on, because it’s easy to put back on.”
Acknowledging the threat is the first step to resistance. Besides, at Camp Svelte, there is ample peer pressure to keep Skinny Gruden — or, better yet, Healthy Gruden — motivated.
JULY 2016 AUGUST 2017