Raiders get their leader back

Lane Kiffin returned to practice with the Raiders on Thursday but it was hard to tell. Two days after being hospitalized with a viral infection, Oakland's head coach was decidedly more subdued than he has been since he was first hired in the offseason.

"I'm really not supposed to do anything but walk out here," Kiffin said, his voice slightly louder than a whisper. "I'm not supposed to exert energy and yell. I guess all head coaches coach that way anyway so I'm going to get to see what it's like."

Kiffin was hospitalized on Monday with what team officials initially called a viral infection. On Thursday, the 32-year-old Kiffin -- the youngest head coach in the NFL -- said doctors now believe he came down with a case of mononucleosis.

"Saturday's when it really got bad during the day, all the way up till game (time)," Kiffin said. "I was really in the coaches' locker room, in my locker room in there in the dark for two hours right till we went out for warmups just trying to recharge and just to try to make it through that game. Then I think really adrenalin helped me go through that. As soon as that game was over … it just really hit rock bottom there. I went home, went to bed, woke up and had a 103.7 degree temperature. It was all downhill from there."

As they had the previous two days while Kiffin was in the hospital, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan ran most of Thursday's practice while Kiffin walked casually from drill to drill. He occasionally stopped and chatted with his players but otherwise kept a pretty low profile.

During his time in the hospital Kiffin lost 11 pounds. He maintained steady contact with the team and even had a laptop delivered to his room so that he could watch film from practice. That was even too strenuous at times.

"There was a point in there where you couldn't really concentrate, you were just making yourself worse and worse," Kiffin said. "You'd start to feel better and you'd get up, get out of bed just to use the restroom and you'd crash back down." Wide receiver Mike Williams said the players were pleased to get their head coach back.

"Everybody was kind of throwing jokes at him, male nurse jokes, at him," Williams said. "He's a part of our team. He's the leader. He's the face for this team. To have him back was big. We were glad to have him back. He still looked sick. But the first chance he had to get back, he came back and that meant a lot to the group."

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