ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Just under 48 hours after Saturday’s loss at home to Minnesota, Michigan coach Brady Hoke answered a regular feast of questions on the handling of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris and the handling of his injury.
Going back to the fourth quarter in the 30-14 loss to the Gophers, Morris, who had already been dealing with what Hoke called Monday a “high ankle sprain,” took a shot to the chin on what appeared to be a clear targeting attempt by Minnesota linebacker Thieren Cockran.
Morris went to the field in a heap, face down and grasping his facemask before slowly standing up.
As Morris began to walk over to the sideline next to right tackle Ben Braden he appeared to momentarily collapse, leaning on Braden, before catching himself and continuing to walk.
Instead, Morris waved off his coaches and teammates, staying in the game for one more play before senior quarterback Devin Gardner came on the field to replace him.
Hoke ran through that scenario, and what he saw from the sideline, early Monday afternoon in front of a full crowd of media.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk, a lot of people, speculation and a lot of rumors, innuendo’s, whatever, on what happened and what’s going on with Shane,” Hoke said.
“Obviously I can tell you from my perspective of being on the sideline, what I know and I’m going to touch some of those things a little bit but at the same time I think there’s other experts that will also have a statement and opinion.
“I’m a football coach, some of you don’t think we’re doing that very well, but that’s what I do. I don’t make decisions who plays, who doesn’t play, as far as when there’s injuries or if there’s in particular if there were any head trauma or head injuries.
“For those of you who know or don’t know, I would never put a kid in that situation, never have and never will because you get into this to coach kids and believe me, that’s what this game is all about, and helping those guys in a lot of different ways. As a staff, I can assure you; that’s never going to happen.
“The one thing I can tell you is during the process of and, let me say this first, number one, we practiced yesterday, we practiced last night, and Shane Morris, would’ve practiced if it were not for a high ankle sprain, and that’s one reason I’m telling you that because that’s what I’ve been told.”
Hoke adding, “He (Morris) would’ve practiced if it wasn’t for that.”
After Gardner took the field in place of Morris, the incident wasn’t entirely over with. Gardner’s helmet came off on a run down the right sideline, forcing him to miss the next play because of the NCAA rule mandating a player leave the field for one play if a helmet becomes removed.
As far as how Morris entered the game and was allowed back onto the field, Hoke had this to say.
“During the course of the game when Devin lost, and I think that’s where the critical junction is for some of you, but Devin’s helmet comes off and my intention is to go out and I get the referees attention, who I think is one of the better referees by the way, in this league,” he said.
“And I want to buy him (Gardner) back with a timeout. When I say that, and I talked to the Big Ten, I talked to Bill Carollo last night, was told I couldn’t buy him back and I said yeah we can buy him back so him and I had a little bit of a discussion because you can buy back in because of the helmet, not because of any injury but because of the helmet coming off.
“Well, the linesman comes up and him and I, and I say I want to buy him back and the referee says you can’t do that and the miscommunication or whatever it might be, the head linesman says yes you can. And so, by that time I know Shane’s on the field taking one more snap, handing the ball off, Devin gets his helmet back on. That’s how that sequence went.”
What Hoke wanted to make very clear Monday is his intentions and handling of situations that involve injury, defending himself and his own character in response to seemingly everyone questioning how this could possibly take place.
“What I can tell you is we would never, ever put a guy on the field when there’s a possibility of head trauma, and we won’t do that,” Hoke said. “Guys play beat up every day. If they’re not beat up, they’re never 100-percent, then they’re not doing much. So, guys always have nicks and bumps and bruises and strains and everything else.
“I’ll also tell you football is a sport where guys have to be highly competitive and they are highly competitive cause they love to play the game and they love to compete and that’s just part of their DNA, and I think it’s different than a lot of other things in professions and those things.”
After watching the film and being asked about hypotheticals, Hoke refused to say he would’ve handled the situation any differently now than he did Saturday.
“Hindsight is good, it’s easy today,” Hoke said. “It’s easy today, it’s easy yesterday. As far as seeing the film, I saw the film yesterday and watched the coaches copy and we obviously turned in the hit (to the Big Ten).”
Questioned about Morris apparent half collapse as he walked toward the sideline following that late hit, Hoke offered what he was told by his sophomore quarterback.
“His ankle gave out,” Hoke said. “That’s what he told me. Did I see that? Yeah I saw Ben Braden there, but I didn’t see the hit either because I was traveling the ball down the field.”
“I knew the kid had an ankle injury,” Hoke added. “That’s what I knew.”
Asked directly if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion or has since, Hoke was clear in his stance.
“Everything that I know of, no,” Hoke said.
Later adding, “Like I said, you’ll have a statement from our medical department.”
Assuming Morris was clear to play, and according to both Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, no one from Michigan’s medical staff indicated Morris wasn’t, should Hoke have taken out a battered, beaten down and already injured player anyway?
“I think you’re wrong there,” Hoke said. “Because if our trainer says one thing, I’m not going to say the other because he knows that.
“If our doctor says one thing and this guy is studied in the field and knows that, it’d be like him telling me run a zone blitz on third down. What does he know about a zone blitz on third down? So, to me that doesn’t make any sense for me to override.”