Arizona may lose Pac-12′s best receiver to mysterious, ‘serious’ cause

For the record, Arizona already has plenty to worry about going into the 2011 season: It's replacing an all-senior offensive line in 2010 with five brand new behemoths who have combined for one career start, and had to watch two of the most productive veterans on an already depleted defense go down with knee injuries in the spring. But with senior quarterback Nick Foles and his top four receivers back in the fold, the passing game wasn't supposed to be on the list.

As of Tuesday evening, the passing game is officially on the list, courtesy of this tiny blurb in the sixth paragraph of an otherwise unremarkable roundup by Arizona Republic beat writer Greg Hansen:

[Running back recruit Ka'deem] Carey's availability somewhat offsets concerns that All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner might not be available for training camp in August. Criner's status for the 2011 season remains uncertain because of undisclosed medical reasons.

That's what I call burying the lede. Criner easily led the Pac-12 in receptions, receiving yards and big-play receptions last year on the heels of a breakout sophomore campaign in 2009, picking up a first-team All-Pac-10 nod and a few second-team/honorable-mention All-America notices for his trouble. With that kind of production and a 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, he's firmly on the NFL's radar, too.

Criner has struggled through assorted injuries in his career, including a persistent turf toe that by his own admission limited him to 75 or 80 percent last year. The vagueness and obscurity of the most recent report suggests something more ominous, though, as does today's follow-up by the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, who was told Criner's current issue is "not an injury, but it's serious." ESPN's Bruce Feldman adds via Twitter that he's also heard Criner isn't hurt, but has "some personal stuff [that] needs sorting out."

Depending on how serious we're talking about here, the upcoming football season may be the last thing on Criner's mind. Until we know for sure, though, his status is going to be the first thing on the mind of Arizona fans.

- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.