The NFL is as secretive an organization as could possibly be, given the fact that it's America's most popular sport and millions of people are looking to mine information about it at any given time. One thing you'll almost never hear is a head coach talking about player injuries, especially before the league-mandated injury reports come out mid-week. It's understandable to a point -- you don't want your opponent with an extra day to prepare for the fact that your mobile quarterback is sporting a bum knee, and may be a pocket passer against his will. Bill Belichick is famous for his interesting (some would say "fabricated") injury reports, and as with many things, the rest of the NFL follows Belichick's lead.
That said, new Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey is taking this thing a bit too far. After the team's Friday practice, Mularkey revealed to the media that any Jags player speaking publicly about his injuries will be fined $10,000. The coach told his players about it in Thursday night's group meetings.
"One of them, it was up there more than once, was about speaking about injuries. [Head trainer] Mike Ryan talked about it, I had it up there more than once. Coordinators were told prior to that meeting every two weeks, two to three weeks I want you to stand in front of that room and tell them we're not going to talk about injuries. Even if mom says, 'How are you feeling?' If you tell your mom, go call coach Mularkey. I'm going overboard."
Mularkey chuckled after that last sentence, per Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union, so he wasn't being completely serious about players not being able to tell their own families about their injuries. Maybe that comes later in the year. Mularkey then went on to explain a policy that sounds like a load of ... well, Mularkey.
"Anything I know about a guy, anything I know is hurting on him, any comment he makes will play into how they attack a team or a position. I just don't think it's anybody else's business. ... If I feel like it's going to jeopardize us or compromise us, I will not talk about specific injuries. Right now we're really not in a position where I don't feel free to talk about them because I feel pretty good about our team right now. But I will be the only voice."
That last sentence seems to be what this is all about -- "I will be the only voice." The coach cited one example in which the quarterback of a team he played said that he wouldn't be playing that week, and though the team tried to backtrack, Mularkey cracked the code. What a genius!
"They put themselves in a bad position," Mularkey said. "...I knew the backup quarterback ran a no-huddle. So we practiced the no-huddle even though the starter didn't run it. We practiced the no-huddle based on his comment. And they came out in the no-huddle just like we thought and we shut them right down."
Someone needs to tell Mularkey that this isn't the NCAA, where you can censor and censure your players anytime you want. This is the NFL, which has a collective bargaining agreement with specific fine structures for specific violations of team and league policy. Fining players for speaking publicly about anything? It just isn't done on a team level, at least not as out in the open as this is. I'd be very interested in what the NFLPA has to say about this, and whether the Jaguars ran this new policy by the league or the Players Association before unilaterally dropping the hammer.
If the NFL wants to fine players for faking injuries in games, as was threatened last year, that's a different story. But losing 10 large for opening your mouth? I don't want to get all Ricky Stanzi here, but are we in America, or are we not?
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