Knowing about injuries can be worse than the injuries

Knowing about injuries can be worse than the injuries

When Kyle Samson looked at me like I was the dumbest guy in the world, I knew I had just asked a bad question.

It was Oct. 5, 2006, and Samson, who is now the head coach of the Kalispell Flathead football team, had just led the MSU-Northern Lights to a 12-7 win over Montana Tech at Alumni Coliseum.

The victory came a little more than two years after Tech beat the Lights 61-0 on the same field, so it was, as they say, kind of a big deal.

Samson, Northern’s quarterback, played one of those all-time gutsy games. It was kind of like Curt Schilling, minus the ketchup.

Two weeks earlier, Samson suffered a high-ankle sprain in a game at Carroll College. Somehow, he played and hurt the ankle even worse the next week at home against Eastern Oregon.

High-ankle sprains are the injuries that should have kept Samson out at least a month, yet he didn’t miss a game.

His numbers in the win over Tech aren’t going to make any fantasy geeks happy, but Samson, whose best weapon was his running ability before the injury, passed for 186 yards and two touchdowns — just enough for the victory.

I interviewed Samson for a story for the paper, and I innocently asked him which ankle was injured. You couldn’t tell because he had lots of tape on both.

My question to Samson was one of those attention-to-detail questions an editor or journalism professor would have expected me to ask.

Samson politely disagreed.

“I’m not telling you that,” he said.

The look on his face told me exactly why he shouldn’t have told me.

“Of course you’re not going to tell me,” I said. “Duh. That was a dumb question.”

College football doesn’t have an injury report like the NFL, and that is probably a good thing.

As a coach, I wouldn’t want the injuries of my players broadcast, but as a sportswriter I want to know why the quarterback isn’t practicing.

That creates kind of a dilemma, and it is that impasse that probably best explains why Bobby Hauck had such an adversarial relationship with the media when he coached at the University of Montana.

Once when Hauck was asked about an injured quarterback, Hauck explained that the quarterback was “still among the living.” Hauck didn’t want word to get out about the quarterback’s injury.

Why do you think Bill Belichick basically lists every New England Patriot and every body part on the weekly injury report? It’s not solely because he is a jerk.

Injuries hurt a football team, clearly. Opponents knowing about injuries a player is playing through hurts even more.

Boo boos in football are what former NFL player Mark Schlereth calls “buttons.” Once the opposing players know you have a “button,” it is going to get pushed.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Matt Komac.

Komac started at quarterback for Montana Tech from 2007 through 2010. He was one of the toughest quarterbacks I ever saw play, but he was not made of steel.

Heading into Tech’s Sept. 25, 2010 game at Carroll College, word was out that Komac had a significant rib injury. Still, he was going to play.

The Saints sacked Komac six times that day, and Carroll knocked him down at least a dozen additional times in the 31-13 Carroll win at Nelson Stadium.

Every time a Komac and a Carroll defender went to the turf, the Carroll defender would use Komac’s ribs to push himself up.

On a couple of those times, I thought Komac must have stopped breathing because it looked like the Good Samaritans on the Saints defensive line were giving him CPR with all the chest compressions.

It was no secret what the Saints were doing to the Oredigger quarterback that day. They were pushing a button over and over.

It worked, too.

Five of the six sacks came in a second half in which Carroll outscored Tech 17-0 to break open a game that was 14-13 at halftime.

That is not to take a shot at Carroll for being dirty. Tech players would have done — and surely have done — the same thing.

Whether its junior high, high school, college or professional football, pushing buttons is part of the game. Sure, it may sound barbaric, but one man’s barbarity is another man’s competitive advantage.

Had Mother Theresa been a football player, she would have been twisting the bum ankle of a running back at the bottom of the pile.

I talked to a doctor who used to be a team doctor for an NFL team. He told me players would ask for braces for their healthy body parts just to throw the opponents off the scent of an injury.

If a player had a banged up right elbow, he would wear a brace on his left elbow, the doctor said. Same with knees and ankles.

On Saturday, Montana Tech senior quarterback Quinn McQueary put on a gutsy performance on par with Samson’s of 11 years earlier.

Despite playing with injured ribs that basically prevented him from practicing for most of the last month of the season, McQueary hung on behind a patch-work offensive line throw the ball 63 times for 302 yards. He took two sacks and a several other shots.

McQueary also ran the ball 14 times, putting his ribs and the rest of his body on the line in his last game.

While there were a few cheap shots from Southern Oregon, none of the Raiders appeared to attempt CPR on the quarterback. So, we can assume that the word of McQueary’s injury wasn’t common knowledge throughout the Frontier Conference.

Otherwise, McQueary might not have been able to finish the game that his body was probably telling him he shouldn’t have even started.

Following his Schilling-like day at Alumni Coliseum, Samson went on to play in the next six games as he led the Lights to the playoffs. Northern finished at 9-3 after a first-round loss at Carroll.

Samson, who ended the season playing on two injured ankles, was voted the Frontier Conference Offensive MVP by coaches around the league.

That’s a pretty special honor for a healthy player, let alone one with could hardly walk.

And to think, he might not have even finished the season had he answered my dumb question.

— Bill Foley, who has only asked one dumb question in his career, writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74


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