New rules change picture on injuries
Players no longer listed as ‘probable’ on reports
Dennis Pitta’s status was not questionable to him.
Despite a broken finger that sidelined the Ravens tight end for the entire preseason, Pitta practiced last week. But when the team produced its final injury report of the week, Pitta was listed as questionable.
Nothing short of a lightning strike or a family emergency was going to prevent Pitta from playing in the Ravens’ 13-7 win Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium — his first game since he fractured his right hip against the Cleveland Browns in September 2014.
“It was great just being out there,” said Pitta, 31. “Once you are back out there, it feels like you have been out there for the last couple of years.”
In past years, Pitta likely would have been listed as probable, but after a policy change last month, that designation no longer exists.
The NFL eliminated the “probable” label from injury reports, citing a statistic that 95 percent of the players classified as probable played in games. NFL spokesman Michael Signora said that if there is any uncertainty about a player’s ability to play, the league requires the player to be listed as questionable.
“Doubtful” suggests a player is unlikely to play, while “out” means the player is certain to remain on the Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090.AM Line: Ravens by 61⁄
sideline in street clothes.
Teams that deactivate a player who had not appeared on previous injury reports will be required to provide an explanation to the league and could be subject to an investigation and/or discipline.
Marvin Lewis, former Ravens defensive coordinator and now the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, is a member of the NFL’s competition committee, which amended the injury report. He told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the change is intended to simplify injury reports.
“I think the NFL [public relations] just felt like there were some, a few, teams who maybe took certain liberties and they just tried, from the NFL PR standpoint, tried to clean it up a little bit and make it simpler,” Lewis said.
The New England Patriots, for instance, came under scrutiny for their handling of injury reports. According to Pro Football Reference, between 2011 and 2015, the Patriots classified players as questionable 852 times; 570 of them, or 66.9 percent, played in games. Quarterback Tom Brady, who rarely misses games because of injury, appeared on injury reports each week from 2005 to 2008.
Last season, the league investigated the Indianapolis Colts for not disclosing that quarterback Andrew Luck had been playing with broken ribs for five weeks. On the morning of Super Bowl 50, the NFL ruled that no violation had taken place and that the club would not be penalized. New England’s Tom Brady appeared on injury reports each week from 2005 to 2008 and rarely sat out games.
“We’re never trying to play games with [the team’s injury reports]. So it didn’t really matter to us.” Ravens coach John Harbaugh
Between 2011 and 2015, the Ravens listed players as questionable 360 times, and 218 (60.6 percent) played. Coach John Harbaugh said he did not have an opinion on the policy change.
“I didn’t really care one way or the other,” Harbaugh said. “We just put out whatever it was or whatever we thought it was. If they said it was 50 percent, we just said, ‘OK, this is about 50 percent,’ and we’d put it under that category. I don’t think that will ever change. We’re never trying to play games with it. So it didn’t really matter to us.”
Buffalo coach Rex Ryan echoed Harbaugh’s sentiments while throwing in a joke.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” said Ryan, a former defensive coordinator and defensive line coach with the Ravens. “I wasn’t one of those guys that fudged on it or anything. By the way, every player we have has got a left leg injury right now.”
The amended injury reports will perhaps most affect fantasy football. Michael Fabiano, senior fantasy analyst for NFL.com, said that while the change will increase web traffic as fantasy football owners scramble to get updates on the statuses of their players, their anxiety will rise, too, as even the slightest injury will earn a “questionable” label.
“Fantasy owners are already a nervous bunch — I see it on Twitter all the time — and seeing that ‘Q’ tag instead of a ‘P’ tag is going to get the nerves pumping every single week,” Fabiano wrote in an email. “Hopefully, people are checking the injury and practice reports more closely in an effort to get a better idea of just how bad a player is injured. If a player is listed as questionable but he practiced all week, for example, there’s a good chance he’s going to be active on game day.”
A player’s availability for a game usually is reflected by his participation in practice. A player is deemed to have practiced fully when he completes 100 percent of his normal repetitions. Anything less than 100 percent earns a player a “limited participation” designation.
In 16 NFL games in Week 1, of the 70 players classified as questionable, 45 played. The Chicago Bears had a league-high nine players listed as questionable and played seven — also the highest total among the 32 teams.
Many coaches, including Harbaugh, don’t pay attention to injury reports during the week. The most significant report is the one that teams distribute 90 minutes before kickoff announcing who is inactive.
Asked whether the change will affect the way clubs report injuries, Harbaugh said: “That’s a good question. I don’t know. Usually, you figure out who’s going to play and who’s not going to play pretty much. If you don’t know, you’ll see when they give you the report an hour and a half before game time, and you see who’s actually going to play. I think it’s much ado about not much.”