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Old 02-10-2009, 06:55 PM   #1
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Default MMQB Mail: Why Big Ben wasn't on injury report and more questions

MMQB Mail: Why Big Ben wasn't on injury report and more questions
Peter King

Should the Pittsburgh Steelers have been more forthright about the rib injury to Ben Roethlisberger prior to the Super Bowl? It's an interesting and highly debatable question.

I say no -- unless they knew before the game that Roethlisberger had fractured ribs, and I don't think they did. Or unless they knew before the game there was some chance he would not play, and we all know Roethlisberger was playing all the way.

Teams fudge with the injury report all the time. The Patriots have at times made a mockery of it, listing everyone but the secretaries as probable. I rarely pay any attention to it at all. The only time teams should get whacked for it is if a player is not on the report before the game and ends up not playing because of a pre-existing injury. That's dishonest.

For gambling and just plain fairness reasons, the Super Bowl injury report is a different story. We should have an honest assessment of a player's condition before the game, because if a team doesn't acknowledge a player is hurt and the injury will be a factor in the team's performance, inside information could influence the betting line and potentially compromise the integrity of the game.

The league requires Super Bowl teams to allow a neutral reporter to watch their most important practice week of the year -- and then write a report on what was seen in the practice -- even though the team and the league are allowed to sanitize the report if there's something in there either feels is an advantage to the other side. I don't think the Steelers changed a word I wrote in three practice reports. Maybe they were hiding the X-rays given to Roethlisberger before the Super Bowl (reported by ProFootballTalk.com three days before the game), which would not be kosher in my opinion. But the bottom line in this story is simple: Did the Steelers ever have any doubt that Roethlisberger would play in the game? No. And so I don't think they owed it to the public to put him on the injury report.

What happened with Roethlisberger is that he was on the off-week injury report as probable with a "back'' injury. Then, because doctors cleared him to practice fully the week before the game, he was taken off the injury report. He didn't miss a snap in the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday practices before the game. He played the game without incident. As he told me Saturday night, there was no way he was not going to play in the game, regardless of his rib discomfort. "It was just suck it up and play,'' he said.

While I do respect the arguments made by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and others that the Steelers needed to be more transparent with Roethlisberger's injury -- and if Tomlin knew of the X-rays, he should have admitted it -- I don't believe Big Ben needed to be on the injury report. It's simple. Putting him on the injury report as "probable'' would have told the world there was a "virtual certainty'' he'd play in the game. That's the definition of "probable'' in NFL injury-reportage. That sounds like a 94 percent chance he'd play. It was 100 percent. Same with center Justin Hartwig, who was gimpy with a knee injury but was definitely going to play in the game.

"My problem,'' said Florio, who has been beating the drum for more honest injury reports, "is the injury report focuses only on availability to play without giving full information as to whether a player will be effective. It's called an injury report. Roethlisberger was injured, and he wasn't on the report. I think that's wrong.''

True, with an asterisk. I think if a guy's definitely playing, he doesn't need to be listed.
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