Soft Tissue Is Hard Choice

The Indianapolis Colts appeared to be going hockey-style with their in-camp injury reports as camp began. Several issues were known - hamstrings, groins, swollen knees - but the Colts would give a sidelong glance and say “soft tissue” or “lower body.”

Mike Chappell was on the radio today and gave me a clue. He said (paraphrasing) that giving vague designations like this was often hard on a player. A player could have a serious injury and because the facts weren’t known, he might look like a malingerer.

Mike’s a smart guy.

I had assumed that the Colts were giving these designations to tweak the media. There’s no rule in place that a team has to give any information at this stage. Remember, the Official Injury Report has to do with whether a player will play, not whether he’s injured. The designations are watched closely and it’s all about controlling information. The NFL gets very wary when someone like me goes outside their normal channels; they feel like gamblers could get an advantage.

(And to echo Peter King’s MMQB column this week, yes, the NFL is watching high-stakes fantasy closely. Same issue.)

I’ve made a lot of calls over the last couple days but finally got to the right person in the right place, willing to discuss it on a Colts off-day. The Colts’ designations are essentially a challenge. Maybe it’s Chuck Pagano, maybe it’s Ryan Grigson, but the edict came from on high. It’s about pressure.

The Colts have been terrible at managing injuries. Football Outsiders’ AGL stat had them at 31st (of 32) last season and I can’t remember them being any higher than 25th. That’s despite changes in the medical staff, the coaching staff and the front office.

Someone thinks it’s the players, though those have changed more than anyone and in a clubhouse that takes the “gladiator” theme literally, it’s hard to imagine what led to this. Worse, everyone in the locker room will know. If this guy has a groin strain or that guy has a swollen knee, the players will know and they’ll see it and make up their own minds.

So this is about public pressure and I don’t get that at all. Making Trent Richardson or Laron Landry look bad to the fans doesn’t help anyone, but I get the sense that the Colts think they can get players off the sidelines and back on the field by … shaming them?

I don’t get this. I don’t think it will work. I think it will backfire. But I don’t think the Colts think that at all.

If last year’s theme was “All In”, then this season’s should be “doubling down.” Granted, the gambling analogy doesn’t follow, but the Colts think doing more of anything is going to help. More reps, more secrecy, more practice, more insularity. This is not going to be a finesse team, on or off the field.

And that should tell you a lot.


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