Rodgers leaks another late injury report

Aaron Rodgers is doing a good job trying to replace a legend on Lambeau Field, but he became more like Brett Favre off the field as well last week when he admitted to playing through pain that wasn't sufficiently stated on the injury report. It's just another example of why injury reports as a whole should be listed as "questionable."

One of the cool things about NFL players is that they seem honor-bound not to talk about injuries until after the fact – the term "competitive advantage" is monstrous in the NFL. The injury report is a joke. Everybody knows it. Ask any fantasy football player with any long-term credibility to give a one-word description of running back Brian Westbrook and, if Westbrook was ever one of his/her players, that word would be almost unanimous.


Fantasy league championships have been won or lost because Westbrook was consistently listed as questionable on the injury report. It was his thing.

In a case of sad irony, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was listed as "probable" on the New England injury report for four consecutive years – every week for four years – with a phantom injury. It was a shoulder injury. For anyone else, especially a quarterback, the injury would be hidden.

Yet, for Brady, cloak-and-dagger head coach Bill Belichick was shockingly forthcoming. Not only did Brady have a shoulder injury, it was always listed as "throwing shoulder." He never had an injury. If he did, it was a one-time occurrence that became such a joke that, when the Patriots played the Colts in 2006, 51 players – almost half of the eligible players for both teams – were listed on the injury report. The sweet irony for Belichick haters was that the first time Brady wasn't listed on the injury report was Week 1 in 2008, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The extent of player injuries and how they are related "officially" to the media (and, in the process, to that week's enemy), is up to each team. The Patriots, Colts and Broncos have been fined by the league for inaccurately reporting injuries, which is why teams – past, present and future – coached by Belichick, Tony Dungy or Mike Shanahan – will have exhaustive lists of players on their respective injury reports.

For those unfamiliar with injury reports, they were instituted for one simple reason – long before the NFL supplanted baseball as America's national pastime, gambling on NFL games was enormous. A wise guy with some inside intel could clean up. As a result, the injury report was born.

Fortunately for the NFL, most media members saw their own football aspirations die in high school or, some cases, the womb. In 2008, Jared Allen suffered a shoulder injury that, by definition, almost meant that the shoulder was being held together by a thread. It was reported as such in the local and national media. Yet, Allen played through the pain. It was never a big deal within the league. Allen could be listed as doubtful, questionable, probable or "who knows?" on the injury report and nobody would raise a red flag.

Why? Defensive players are tough guys. Jack Youngblood is lionized for playing (effectively) on what was later diagnosed as a broken leg. Any football fan over the age of 20 has seen Mike Singletary's eyes more than he or she wants to. Ronnie Lott's thumb was amputated so he could keep playing. What? True. Part of earning your NFL chops on defense is to shrug off pain when it comes to throwing down.

But, for some reason, there is a double standard when it comes to quarterbacks. Is the gambling culture the culprit? Maybe. Somewhere in the NFL league offices, someone had to ask the question about how many people knew that the Colts were going to lay down against the Jets midway through what, to that point, had been a perfect season. In the right (or wrong) hands, that was information that could be worth millions of dollars.

It was Brett Favre's candid admissions about a biceps tendon injury that put the Jets and former coach Eric Mangini in hot water with the league because both team management and Mangini knew Favre was injured but never listed him on the injury report. The best explanation that came from the Jets was that Favre was a tough guy that would have played regardless. The NFL saw things a different way and fined both the Jets and Mangini – even though the coach was employed by the Browns at the time.

What brings all of this up now was a radio interview Aaron Rodgers gave WTMJ AM-620 Radio and host Bill Michaels this week. He said it took more than a month for his body to bounce back from the beating it took during the 2009 season. However, in explaining his current good health, Rodgers said, "I didn't make a big deal about this, but I had some pretty substantial foot injuries throughout the season (and) sprained both feet at different times in the year."

Fantasy football alert came back that Rodgers was never listed as worse than probable on an injury report – listed at midseason with foot, feet and rib injuries. You can't blame Rodgers. He's still in Favre's shadow and proving his own toughness may come back to haunt his team. Any interpretation of "substantial," much less for a significant portion of the season, would lend one to believe that the Packers knew Rodgers was injured and weren't completely forthcoming with how bad things were.

Will Green Bay be investigated? Probably not. The truth about NFL injuries is that you find out about most of them, barring the obvious blown ACL or broken bone, after the fact. Part of Favre's legacy is going to be that his honest admission about his NFL future came back to bite the Jets. It seems that being a tough guy works for some positions and not others. Rodgers has a mammoth shadow to step out of. With the potential exception of Steve Young, nobody has replaced a legendary QB as well as Rodgers in Green Bay. Was he embellishing his injuries to start to build his own legacy? Probably not. The injuries likely were legitimate.

However, in the era of competitive advantage, injury report be damned. Injuries will be concealed. The difference between being 6-10, 8-8 or 10-6 is razor thin. The difference between 10-6 and 12-4 is the difference between playing on the road in January and playing at home. The Rodgers injury admission isn't going to be more than a ripple in the pond of offseason NFL news, but it is part of the unspoken NFL – regardless of how they are listed on the injury reports, players have injuries they play through and don't want anyone to know about. Accept it. The NFL has become more and more covert all the time. The injury report was born out of a gentlemen's agreement to be honest. It has been rendered moot because NFL gentlemen no longer agree.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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