Sailing the Seas of Cheese: The Case of the Sprained Kneecap
By now everyone has assumed crash positions after hearing the Packers’ Offensive Line took another hit when Coach McCarthy told reporters yesterday that Bryan Bulaga had a sprained kneecap and that it would be challenging to get him ready to be back on the line for the Christmas Day game against the Chicago Bears.
First of all, you can’t sprain a kneecap. It’s a bone. You can fracture a kneecap. You can bruise a kneecap. You can dislocate a kneecap. And if you’ve ever had to attend a school or athletic banquet at the Swan Club in De Pere, you’ve probably eaten a kneecap or two (which is the perfect marriage of deep-fried dough meets powdered sugar with a dollop of some sort of creamy goo in the center to form the proverbial patella of desserts. Think beignet with a Northeast Wiscosin twist to it.)
Anyhow, the only thing you can sprain is a ligament. There are four in the knee if you’re curious. The two you hear about all the time are the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) which holds the femur to the tibia and the MCL (medial collateral ligament) which attaches the same two bones together in a different location. In short, you sprain a ligament, strain a muscle, and fracture a bone. And the meniscus is a cushion between the bones that’s made of cartilage. You can tear that as well.
So what does this mean for Bryan Bulaga?
It means McCarthy is holding his cards pretty close to his chest with this injury and isn’t divulging anything that can be used against the Packers. The only thing that would have been more nebulous would be one of those great McCarthy declarations, He Has a Knee. Well, yeah, unless there was some amputation that we didn’t know about, chances are Bulaga still has two of them.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Packers have not been all that forthcoming with injury disclosures. Remember resounding OMG when the Packers, after the fact, acknowledged that Clay Matthews had been nursing a stress fracture for a large portion of the 2010 season? That’s what happens when a player Has a Leg, I guess.
Let’s face it, opposing teams will use injury reports for game planning. There’s no denying it. The Chiefs definitely knew Jennings was down and out with his MCL problems and used that to their advantage with the man-on-man and did a pretty effective job manhandling Jordy Nelson. But it goes the other way too. Vague injury reports have also bitten teams in the rear when it came to game planning. During the Holmgren era, the Detroit Lions listed RB Barry Sanders as doubtful the entire week and the Packers probably planned to defend a Lion’s offense that was minus their huge playmaker. Only he wasn’t doubtful. He played lights out and ran for 167 yards.
Since 1947 the NFL has required that teams list injuries in relation to probability of play. Teams are required to list injured players as Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out. Teams can be fined for not doing so. What they don’t have to disclose is the actual nuts and bolts of a diagnosis. Case in point various members of 2008 New York Jets leadership were fined a collective $125,000 for not disclosing He Who Should Not be Named’s injury status regarding his torn biceps tendon. No team knew the Jets’ QB was even injured. Had they known he’d been playing with a gimpy throwing arm, you know every blitz would have been aimed at it.
So how does this affect Bulaga? No one knows, because McCarthy doesn’t want you to know. More importantly, he doesn’t want the Bears, Lions, Saints or 49ers to know. Per the current rules, he has until Friday to declare Bulaga’s official status. Until then he’s Challenged, whatever that means.
If Bulaga’s demeanor is any indication during the Chief’s game, I would be hard pressed to say this injury is very serious. After all, he was still in pads on the sideline after returning from the locker room. There was no giant ice pack or brace on that knee. He certainly didn’t look as uncomfortable as Greg Jennings did the week before after he sprained his medial collateral ligament. Sure, he could have sprained something that will put him on the bench indefinitely. Teams would definitely be adjusting their rush accordingly. He may be ready to go Sunday, but McCarthy may want him to wait until he’s 100% instead of 95% and is willing to take his chances with playing Musical O-line because they already have a first round bye and feels comfortable giving Bulaga a week or two to heal all the way. Or Bryan is a little sore but ready to rumble, the injury is trivial and the Packers are creating a distraction much like a killdeer does flopping around like its wing is broken trying to misdirect defensive coordinators.
Mike McCarthy has a secret and he’s not willing to share it with anyone.