By KATHERINE SMITH ksmith@tampatrib.com
Published: Oct 16, 2004






TAMPA - Tim Brown remembers Jon Gruden walking onto the field for his first Oakland practice in 1998.
He was the youngest head coach in the league - and arguably the loudest. The yelling was constant, Brown recalls.

``I remember thinking, he's 34 or 35 years old and he's just trying to prove something,'' Brown said. ``But I realized quickly that that's how this guy is. It's hard to fake what he has. What he feels for this game, there's no way to fake it.''

That passion for the game sometimes results in a barrage of yelling, to the point where Gruden can lose his voice. It happened in New Orleans on Sunday when four quarters of cheering, screaming and trying to be heard in a loud dome took its toll on Gruden's vocal cords.

``I try to be enthusiastic and to be enthusiastic, you have to be heard sometimes,'' Gruden said. ``When you're coaching three different quarterbacks and a rookie flanker and you're excited about what's going on here, you sometimes tend to overdo it. I try not to push it too far.''

Gruden knows he has to be careful to protect his voice. He keeps throat spray on the sideline. Mark Arteaga, the Bucs director of football operations who has worked with Gruden since 1998, tries to get him to use lozenges.

``But he's so impatient, he chews them up and swallows them before they can take effect,'' Arteaga said. ``He's not a good patient. He doesn't slow down and he talks a lot. He'll get involved in just about every meeting, every practice, period. He's just nonstop, going and going and going. He leans on the Chloraseptic spray. Cherry is his favorite.''

Nelson Castellano, an ear, nose and throat specialist in South Tampa, said a person who continually screams and yells could eventually push their voice box to the point where serious problems can occur.

``What happens when you lose your voice, it creates stress where swelling occurs,'' Castellano said. ``Most times, the swelling is temporary, but it can become permanent.''

People with voice problems can develop nodules and polyps and even bleeding in the vocal cords, Castellano said, but for the most part the damage is not irreversible.

``If it continues to happen, however, at some point it can become an irreversible situation,'' he said. ``At some point, if you continue to lose your voice completely, it can become altered. Then that person would not be able to raise their voice at all.''

There are days, some of the players agreed, they wish Gruden would lose his voice. Assistant coaches could use a break, too. Running backs coach Art Valero hasn't lost his voice since joining the Bucs in 2002, but his hearing takes a beating at times.

``The guys that are on the other side of the [headphones], when he screams, we get the brunt of it,'' Valero said.

There is a method to Gruden's madness.

``It's not just useless screaming,'' safety John Howell said. ``Some coaches scream just to hear themselves scream. He gets his point across. He just genuinely cares and wants you to get it down. He doesn't just scream to be a jerk; he's coaching. He's got a purpose.''

And nobody is immune from a Gruden rant. Not even Brown, a 17-year veteran.

``I get it, but he's a little more lax with me than he is with some of the other guys,'' Brown said. ``Rookies get it bad.''

Officials get it, too. Remember during Super Bowl XXXVII when Gruden screamed at an official, ``Are you out of your skull?''

But Gruden also raises his voice in praise.

``It's cheerleading sometimes,'' Gruden said. ``It's telling someone `Great catch' or `Super play' or I have to yell out `Did you see that?' or `Get in the game. I want you to go here and you go over there.' Then I have to call the play to the quarterback, `Hey, watch out for that.'

``It's just what I do. I like to teach and you've got to communicate to teach.''

Players say Gruden's enthusiasm is contagious. Even if they have to get an earful from him to catch it.

``The guy's a salesman,'' Brown said. ``Every time he opens his mouth, he's trying to sell something to somebody. He's trying to get you to see things through his point of view. The only way he can do that sometimes is to be a little more excited.''