New rules change pic­ture on in­juries

Play­ers no longer listed as ‘prob­a­ble’ on re­ports

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

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.”

KATHY WILLENS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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