As I sat on my couch, and for a brief stint in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, this past weekend enjoying football, I allowed many things to wash over me as I just took in the games. I didn’t bother to focus on the little things that I typically do in a college football game because I was just allowing myself to enjoy College Football’s triumphant return and all of the great games that occurred over the past few days.
That sense of wonderment quickly wore off Tuesday morning and my mind went back to all of the little issues in games that stood out to me and why they bothered me so, none so much as an issue that I witnessed during the Clemson v. Georgia game. This issue did not lessen the greatness of that game and by no means reflects badly on anyone involved, but it does in fact point to a greater issue in football overall involving teams and fans.
The issue that I am referring to is that of injuries when it comes to no-huddle offenses.
As Clemson fans and other no-huddle team fans are aware, there have been accusations and instances of defenses faking injuries to slow the pace of the game and to give their team a chance to regroup as well as to take the offense out of rhythm. Here is one of the more obvious examples of this phenomenon:
As you can see Cal makes no attempt to hide the fact that they are faking the injury and they are deliberately doing so to slow down Oregon’s tempo, which is one of their trademarks offensively.
In my coaching career I have always run an up-tempo, no-huddle offense. My teams always moved fast and we thrived on the speed. When I first learned this style of offense my fellow coaches who taught me told me there are two things that kill a no-huddle offense: short gains and tempo disruptions. The first is obvious, if you are running your offense at a very fast speed and are only making short gains you will quickly be punting and killing the team overall with a low time of possession and a tired defense. The second is a category that contains several things from poor substitution patterns to injuries. So needless to say I was conditioned to be angry about teams that asked for measurements constantly when we were on offense and when players cramped repeatedly.
All of this was swirling around my head Tuesday morning as I replayed the Clemson v. Georgia game back in my head. Then the issue that I had let go that night came flying back to the forefront of my mind. This:
With all of my experience running an offense that affected by this and my overall respect for the game, do you know what my biggest problem with this clip is? It is the part that isn’t shown or rather heard, the booing by the fans. Let me clarify again that this is not an indictment on the Clemson fan base by any stretch of the imagination, they are far from the first fan base to do this. This is also not an attempt to chastise fans over this, but rather an attempt to show the fans another way of looking at this whole issue.
Respect the injury. It is as simple as that. Respect the injury. I have shown you two clips that are both obvious attempts by the defense to slow down the offense and you know what? Fans should still respect the injury. There is another part of that video that isn’t included but can be seen if you watch the game film, the player who goes to the ground appears to be walking gingerly towards the sideline if you look back at the clip. The reason for this occurs the play before, when we gets hit in the groin inadvertently and due to the tempo of the offense is unable to get off the field and it appears he will be able to do so in time again before the next play occurs. Are there other ways to take care of this issue? Certainly. However, is the injury legitimate? very possibly and thus fans should respect the injury.
It was my first game coaching. I had been coordinating the offense for a local high school team and I was fired up for my first chance to call a game. On the second play of the game we break a long out cut for a touchdown. On our second drive we have a long 9 play drive of 75 yards and fumble on the 3 yard line. Before that play began a player for the opposing team, a rival high school in fact, fell to the ground out of nowhere in the middle of the field as we were about to take the snap. Knowing how this was going to hurt our momentum, I decided to go ballistic on the officials. I also decided to go out to the field and to see the extent of the player’s injury. He was holding his side and having trouble breathing easily, to which I attributed his being out of shape and our tempo. He walked off the field with the trainers and out of my mind for the time being. We went on to be down several scores at the half, we were not a good team nor I a good coach yet. As we walked to the end zone to meet the team at the half I went to talk to the official to warn them that this was not the first time we had heard players were faking injuries to slow down no-huddle teams and that they should watch that. He then stopped and told me that the trainers suspected the player had torn an abdominal muscle and it was probably made to be worse because he could not get off the field on the play that it happened or had begun to bother him.
It was at that moment that I was brought back to a time in which I played and I had a greater respect for this truth in football: on every single play, these athletes are putting their bodies in harm’s way and are always a few inches from injury. It is this truth that I believe needs to be understood by college football fans again. We are now all so wrapped up in the excitement of the sport and all of the new trends on offense and defense and we forget to marvel at the danger these players are constantly in for their and our enjoyment. There is no doubt in my mind there are injuries that are faked nowadays to slow these offenses. I also understand the frustration of fans and coaches alike to see multiple injuries and assume they are a ploy. My point however is that we need an overhaul on our cynical view of this game and a refocusing on to what is really important: the enjoyment of the game and the safety of the players.
When you go out and enjoy your games this weekend (also keep an eye out for my picks coming out this week) I ask you to keep this in mind. Please respect the injury. If a player goes down and those around you begin to boo remind them that these are people who are in danger out on that field and can very well be injured and that not all injuries are ploys to slow down an offense.
Let’s have a return to crowds that went silent for those who are down on the field and a standing ovation for when they are able to leave it. Let’s have a return to civility in times that are troubling for individuals possibly facing serious medical issues. Let’s respect the injury.
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- Georgia Flops Against Clemson (benchwarmersports.wordpress.com)
- Kirk Herbstreit Claims Players Are Practicing Faking Injuries to Stop No-Huddle (bleacherreport.com)
- Urlacher says faking injuries common in football (nydailynews.com)