Undeserved hit on Pats' injury reporting

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
5:00
AM ET
Leading off the day with a quick thought on a story that seems to have sprung to life ...

With former Patriots players Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes making comments about the Patriots' injury reporting procedures -- Talib regarding his hip, Spikes about why he was placed on season-ending injured reserve in January -- it has sparked headlines that create a perception the club might be skirting league rules.

Spikes
Talib
Talib
To which we'd offer an emphatic response: Come on, man!

In Talib's case, the story was about the club listing his quad injury as a hip injury. This is common practice around the NFL, and has been for years, as most coaches will acknowledge they are actually trying to protect the player.

As former Steelers coach Bill Cowher once said, "Sometimes when a guy had an ankle [injury], I might list it as a knee, just because I didn't want people knowing where to take shots at my players."

Meanwhile, in Spikes' case, he seemed to be saying that he could have played through a knee injury in the playoffs. That's fair, as he gutted his way through the 16-game regular season even when it was clear that he was hampered by the injury, providing an emotional charge to his teammates in the process.

But that was never really the main question with Spikes at the time. The bigger issue was that the team placed him on injured reserve due to a combination of the injury and not showing up for practice one day during the playoff bye week, as reported by ESPN NFL senior analyst Chris Mortensen.

If I had to guess, what Spikes is contesting is that it was a mutual decision.

Those situations, again, are commonplace in the NFL.

One final thought is that NFL guidelines for injury reporting are straightforward: Any player that might be in jeopardy of not playing that week should be listed. This was chronicled, among other places, in a 2007 USA Today story:
The NFL injury report dates from 1947, when it was mandated by then-commissioner Bert Bell because of an incident the previous season.

It "had to do with a player who was injured and [unexpectedly] didn't play in the game," [NFL Vice President of Communications Greg] Aiello says. "There were questions about that, and [Bell] realized that wasn't good for the integrity of the league, so there should be disclosure about the condition of players."

That was never in question in the cases of Talib and Spikes. Thus, I'm not sure why it has generated some momentum, other than the Patriots are often an easy target.

Surely, they push the envelope at times, but in this case they're taking an undeserved hit.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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