Darron Thomas' status is unclear

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
11:57
AM ET
As expected, Oregon coach Chip Kelly had little to say about QB Darron Thomas' hurt knee Sunday.

Thomas did a good job downplaying the injury after the Ducks beat Arizona State.

The cumulative implications here suggest that Thomas doesn't have a season-ending knee injury. The unofficial term everyone likely will adopt is a "sprain," which is one of those injuries that either needs just a few days to heal or two or three weeks.

For example, Washington QB Keith Price has been playing on two "sprained" knees. Of course, everyone knows Huskies QBs are particularly tough. A Duck may react differently to a "sprained" knee.

Kidding! I'm kidding!

And let's not forget RB LaMichael James. He sat out Saturday with a dislocated elbow. His return also is uncertain. (In a postgame chat with Kelly, without me asking, he said, "I think we'll get them back," which reflected the general scuttlebutt that disaster has been avoided with both Thomas and James).

Considering how well Bryan Bennett played after replacing Thomas, there doesn't see to be much reason to rush Thomas (and James) back, particularly for Saturday's visit to a struggling, beaten up Colorado team, which may be without its best offensive and defensive players.

After that, Washington State comes to town. Again, you'd think the Ducks could handle the better-but-not-there-yet Cougars without Thomas and James.

Then things get tricky.

Obviously, everybody is thinking about the Ducks' Nov. 12 visit to Stanford, which has long been considered the Pac-12 game of the year. But the Nov. 5 visit to No. 25 Washington also figures to demand the Ducks' full regard. That's the game Oregon fans would least like to lose on an annual basis.

While most coaches don't think about injuries strategically -- if you're healthy, you play; if you aren't, you don't -- there is something to be said to priorities and playing it safe.

Further, there's the issue of depth behind Bennett. That's true freshman Marcus Mariota and perhaps former QB Daryle Hawkins, now a receiver. Bennett at this point is a more effective runner than passer, but if he runs 15 times, that also exposes him to more contact, which is risky.

The intrigue here will be writers who cover the Ducks trying to spy Thomas and James and read between the official lines of communication coming from Kelly, which will be a uniform "day-to-day."

But the reality is that we almost certainly won't know when Thomas and James will resume their starting roles until just before game time.

Ted Miller | email

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