Shhhhh! Let's Not Talk About Injuries
Played basketball last night, and the first comment I heard when entering the gym was: "Is Lee Evans playing Sunday?"
"What, do you work for the Texans?" I replied.
"No, have him on my fantasy team and wonder if I should play him."
I told the guy, "I'm not sure if he's playing." And, of course, the person said, "You do know. You just won't tell me."
He's right about that. I wouldn't tell him even if I knew.
ALL NFL TEAMS PROTECT INJURY INFORMATION!
We're probably a little nuts about this and, no doubt, we have some paranoia when it comes to getting injury information out there. But, there are competitive reasons we do this.
Knowledge Is Power
First, let's remind ourselves that the NFL is the league where "on any given Sunday" any team can beat another. We're also the league that has multiple rules to try to get us all to 8-8 every season. When you win, your rewards include a tougher schedule and lower draft picks.
So, in this league, where teams are so close, you look for edges. One of the biggest is knowing who is going to be playing for your next opponent.
Why is this so important? It's all about the preparation. There are only so many hours in the week for coaches and players to study and practice. It starts with the coaches, and let's use the Texans' great receiver Andre Johnson as an example. Andre is a game-changer, and there are only about five receivers like him in the world. We saw that first hand last season when Johnson caught nine passes for 140 yards and the game-tying touchdown with 20 seconds left in the game.
Through Thursday night, we weren't quite sure if Andre was going to play against us. Here's what that means in terms of our preparation:
- Our coaches had to look at all the plays the Texans run with Johnson in the lineup. That's a ton of work hours in video study.
- Our coaches then had to study all the Houston video when Johnson didn't play. That cramming includes looking at games from the last three seasons, and again, many hours of study.
- Beginning Wednesday morning, the coaches teach our players two game plans: one that includes Johnson and another that doesn't.
- Our practice schedule for a week is a series of lesson plans that are played out on the field after many hours of classroom study. Our defense prepared for a Texans' offense with and without the Pro Bowl receiver.
- But, the coaches can't simply add more plays to practices. There's a point of diminishing return. We want the players fresh for Sunday's game. We don't want them to "leave" their best game in practice, because we gave them too many play repetitions on Wednesday through Friday.
- In the end, we didn't get to practice as many of the play repetitions as we wanted against the Texans' offense that we'll see Sunday.
Because the Texans left some mystery about Johnson's availability, we prepared for two Houston offenses. Had we been 100 percent sure he was not going to play, we would have focused totally on that Texans' study.
We scour the internet for injury information. Yes, teams have to put out daily injury reports Wednesday through Friday. These releases give some injury status, but teams try to say as little as possible to make the opponent spend as much as possible preparing for various game plans. The Texans studied all the plays Lee Evans has made with us, including preseason. They probably went back and looked at video of Lee when he played at Buffalo. Houston also had to study the plays we run with Torrey Smith playing. We hope that those studies made their coaches bleary-eyed and that the players had to runs extra plays at their practices.
On Wednesday morning, John Harbaugh reminded his players not to talk to reporters about their injuries or their teammates' injuries. Reporters still asked. That's what they do. It's part of their jobs. We apologize to all you fantasy players. Our hope is to keep injury information a little cloudy.
We all grieve for Art Modell, his sons John and David, and the rest of the family after Pat, Art's wife, passed away on Wednesday. To say Art and Pat loved each other is such an inadequate description. They adored each other. Into their 80's, they still acted like a teenage couple. They bragged on each other. They brought such joy to each other.
From Steve Bisciotti to Ozzie Newsome to John Harbaugh, we've heard a lot of "I loved Pat Modell" over the last few days. She generated that kind of reaction with her generous, kind, humorous and loving ways. She was a hoot, and it was a joy to spend time with her.
David Modell reminded me of the time Pat met U2's Bono at the opening in Dublin, Ireland, of "U2-3D," the movie David and his brother John produced a few years ago. Pat was sitting in a chair when she met Bono, who always wears a pair of shaded glasses. "Bono reached out and grabbed my Mom's hand, kissed it and said, 'It's a pleasure to meet you,'" David recalled. "Remember, it's Bono, one of the most recognized persons on the planet. Patty looks up at him and said: 'Take off your glasses. I'd like to see your eyes.' And Bono did. My Mom then said, 'You have gorgeous eyes. You shouldn't wear the glasses.' That was her, unabashed, so charming and honest."
Pat loved football and knew the game. Art delighted in Pat's observations and said she had a special knack for evaluating quarterbacks. After we won our 2008 season opener – 17-10 over the Bengals – when we started rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, I saw Pat. "We have a good one there. I love 'Gucci.' We're going to win big with him," Mrs. Modell exclaimed.
I looked at Art. "She calls Flacco 'Gucci.'" Huh? Pat learned Joe's name, but being superstitious, she continued referring to him as "Gucci" through the years. Here's hoping "Gucci" has a big day Sunday, the Ravens win, and Pat is smiling from above. Let's beat the Texans.
Talk with you next week,
P.S. We'll have a moment of silence for Pat Modell prior to Sunday's kickoff, and our players will have a "PBM" (Pat Breslin Modell) decal on the backs of their helmets to salute Mrs. Modell.
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.