Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why Teams Need to Do More to Protect Their Players

In light of this fake controversy over if Derrick Rose should play or not for Chicago (which I spoke on earlier this week), it brings to mind a bigger concern. What responsibility do teams and coaches have to protect their players from themselves??

Case in point, it's been reported that Rose's teammate Luol Deng has lost 15 pounds since undergoing a spinal tap last week. Deng really wants to play in this series against Miami and he'd be welcomed with open arms. Except that Deng is really in no shape to play because of obvious fatigue.

We saw this in the NFL playoffs with Robert Griffin III. RG3 was hurt and hobbling around a bad leg against the Seahawks and it was made worse when he suffered an even worse injury later in the game. He had no business to be playing and his coaches had no business calling running plays and roll outs for him when he's not at 100%.

It's admirable when guys play hurt. It happens all the time. Jack Youngblood will be remembered forever playing the Super Bowl on one leg. Michael Jordan's flu game. Willis Reed's moment (which I personally find overrated compared to Walt Frazier going off that game).

But when guys play hurt and hurt their team in the process? That's when a coach needs to step in and save their player from their pride. An organization needs to say "We have you around here for a long time, don't mortgage the future for the present if you can't be effective."

My favorite example is Philip Rivers. In the 2007 AFC title game, he was playing on one leg while LaDainian Tomlinson sat on the bench with his injury. LT was crucified and Rivers was hailed for his gutsy performance. I too gave Rivers his props but it overshadowed the fact he didn't play well or throw for a touchdown.

Jay Cutler was blasted by peers and some Bears fans when he took himself out of the NFC championship game in 2011. Nevermind that he made the right decision because he knew he wasn't right.
Guys naturally don't want to stop playing. They don't want to hear the names, the insults or get treated like Jay Cutler in the 2011 NFC title game. They fear losing their job a la Wally Pipp or Drew Bledsoe. The culture of sports dictate that you play through pain or you're not tough enough to last long.

We've already started to change that attitude with concussions. It's time we start doing it for other more serious injuries, especially legs, knees, viruses and other mental issues. What's the point of giving your all to your own detriment?

Selfish fans already have a hard time sympathizing with the players. Just because you and I have to keep working through tough situations doesn't mean everyone else should. I'd rather trust grown men in their 40's-50's to do what's right by players in their 20's-30's and make the decisions that the players won't make themselves.

A coach's job goes beyond X's and O's. He or she is a manager of his players. They has to know their tendencies and have their back. Being stubborn may work in teaching but when it comes to execution, you have to be flexible when the moment dictates it.

I applaud Tom Thibodeau for not placing any pressure on Derrick Rose too soon. But how he's managing his current players can be debated in light of their injuries.
I feel teams should have an obligation to their money makers. Did you invest that much in somebody to not care about their well-being? Did you invest that much to listen to them when they're either honest or lying about their health.

It's easy for teams to protect their investment when the players do something stupid and they punish them for it. But what about when it comes to injuries and their own hubris on the court?

We already know the NCAA is a greedy machine biased against their raw product that works for free. The pros shouldn't be that way because if you're paying guys that much money, you owe it to them to make sure they don't hurt themselves with their brashness.

Team doctors aren't exactly fair and impartial and as this article shows, the Bulls' team doctors have dropped the ball before. They have an obligation to get guys back and playing as soon as possible and that can lead to misdiagnosis and guys risking their careers.

While it's great and "gutsy" to see guys play hurt and play through pain, at what point do we look at teams to save those warriors when that attitude backfires on the field of play. Instead of questioning the heart of the players, we need to question teams who don't protect them on the field and off it from the media. 

To the Bulls' credit, they have not placed pressure on Derrick Rose. His teammates have backed him up and Tom Thibodeau is more concerned with seeing who's healthy to face Miami. Now it's time for them to do right by Luol Deng, who's in no condition to help his team.

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