After talking about Allen and Mohamed, Tedford proceeded to tell reporters today that he will no longer talk about injuries. "I’m not going to talk about them and let the opponent know who’s playing and who’s not playing. We’re going to keep that under our hats," he said. Obviously, that will make personnel updates harder now, but I will do my best to at least observe who is practicing and who is not — it will just be more difficult to find out what kind of injury a player has and how serious it is.
This is of course a logical step for a head coach to take. Tedford is renowned for being quiet about the severity of injuries. Nate Longshore and his now-infamous ankle is the most famous example, but so is Shane Vereen and his torn meniscus, Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson's arm injury that limited his carries for all of 2009, Jahvid Best playing with a bum ankle the first few weeks of the 2009 season, Syd'Quan Thompson playing with a cast on his hand in 2006...the list goes on. Letting people know how injured a player is can help opposing teams know what to focus on and how to stop it, but it can also give fans the wrong impression as to why our team isn't performing up to snuff.
For those wondering if there are other coaches uneager to talk about health issues, you only have to look across the Bay. Jim Harbaugh is also notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to disclosing injuries. But let's keep in mind that Harbaugh has no irritated fans to answer to (because the Furd has no fans) and move on with this discussion.
This should be rather obvious, but almost all football players are injured to some extent. You see the obvious injuries on the field where people have to play off, but you don't see the aches, the effects from all the hits, etc. I would say injuries in college football are drastically underreported. A lot of football players are playing hurt, but they suck it up and play without it going reported.
However, they often incur the wrath of their fans, who aren't usually keeping track of these injuries. How many people were aware of the severity of Longshore's injury in 2007? Or wondered why we ran Vereen into the ground in 2009 because Deboskie-Johnson had an arm injury? Or that Squid had that cast on his hand Only those who followed the team closely probably knew for sure--the rest assumed that he was just regressing as a player.
This is why I'm a little wary of Tedford's injury policy. We were told all week that Mike Mohamed would play, but I was very concerned the moment I heard he was being held out of practice. When a player isn't playing during the week, you have to presume it's serious enough that he's risking further injury by playing. Especially toe injuries, which are so unpredictable.
We were all wondering why Keenan Allen wasn't getting enough touches during the game. If not for a random tidbit from a message board about some Saturday morning telecast no one seems to watch, I might not have even known he was limping around. It would explain why he had trouble handling Kevin Riley's high pass on the interception and couldn't run down Riley's deep throw to the end zone.
Anyway, my big point is that while not disclosing player injuries might make it harder for teams to gameplan against us, it will also make our fans who've been kept in the dark about our team's injury troubles MUCH angrier about performances like Friday night in Reno, and some of that will filter down to unfairly criticizing the players.
How many people really had time to process Mohamed wouldn't be playing? There was no official announcement beforehand. Did any of the Cal fans in the stands recognize that he wasn't on the field? And wouldn't some updates on Keenan Allen's status have helped?
And it's not quite clear how much of an advantage that allows for our team. I'd expect Nevada was playing with the expectation that Mohamed would play, but when he didn't, the Wolf Pack seemed to call a lot of their plays to exploit the side of the field where his replacement was. The Pistol offense is a very simple one, and it doesn't require much offensive adjustment to exploit the team. The Airraid attack we'll see in Tucson this week is very similar--quick to adjust to personnel changes.
That's why I fear this idea not to disclose injuries will backfire. Jeff Tedford has been known to be very secretive and restrictive of how much access the media gets to his program. This decision to close off injury reporting will enhance that perception (fairly or unfairly), especially after a big-time loss.
Unless he starts winning, that is. Then all will be forgiven.