J.R. and Henry: Why the Secrets?
Now that it’s finally been revealed that sophomore quarterback Casey Dick’s back really is injured, Arkansas Razorback fans everywhere have spent the week arguing the pros and cons of who the starting quarterback should be for the Southern Cal game. We touched on that subject in our last column, so no need to make those same points again here. Let’s just say that we’d like to see the true freshman get his shot and leave it at that.
So far, this preseason has not been kind to the Hogs. Houston Nutt has lost his All-SEC starting tailback to a dislocated toe, and now it appears his starting quarterback will be out for a significant period of time (in all likelihood, the season) with a back injury. Add to that top reserve cornerback Darius Vinnett’s knee injury that will keep him out for a significant period of time, and back up tailback Michael Smith’s hamstring which has kept him sidelined for the past week. We’re not even counting the injuries to defensive end Anthony Brown, linebackers Ryan Powers and Chip Gregory, offensive lineman Zac Tubbs, and wide receiver London Crawford because it’s unclear exactly how much game time, if any, those players will miss.
No doubt about it, injuries are part of football. Every coach has to deal with them. But the way this Arkansas coaching staff has handled the Casey Dick injury situation has been, in a word, appalling.
First, for reasons known only to him, Houston Nutt has concealed the truth of Dick’s injury for months. For starters, even though Dick was first injured in spring practice, there was no discussion of his injury until spring practice was over. And only then it was discussed in generalities and shadow talk, always along with assurances that the injury was minor and Dick would be fine by fall.
On media day Houston Nutt was asked about the quarterback situation and responded: “All three of them have had two good days. Casey Dick has no problems physically.”
Some might say, maybe Casey wasn’t being honest with Houston about his injury. Maybe Casey was the one concealing the truth from his coach. Well, Houston might get the benefit of the doubt if he hadn’t said what he did last Tuesday, Aug. 8, when Dick missed his first extended practice time of the summer. Even though Dick didn’t get any work in team drills and watched as Robert Johnson and Mitch Mustain took all the reps, Houston assured reporters afterward that Dick was healthy and that the reason he didn’t get any snaps was that the coaches just wanted to change things up. Considering that Dick hasn’t had a full practice since that day, it’s hard to say Nutt was being honest.
What’s astounding is, why hide it? Does anybody believe that Southern Cal is going to change its defensive gameplan based on whether Dick or Johnson or Mustain is the starting quarterback? Dick’s got some ability, but he’s not Peyton Manning yet.
But even more troubling than the manner in which Dick’s injury has been revealed, is the way it has been treated. The man has had a sore back since the spring. But he wasn’t sent for an MRI until Aug. 11. Hey, coach. News flash. Dean Weber is not a doctor.
So after the MRI, what does Houston Nutt tell the papers as reported Saturday? “All of the X-rays and MRIs came back negative, which is very positive. Hopefully, Monday we’ll get him back on the field and get him going.” Whew, that’s a relief. Oh, wait, that isn’t exactly true.
Monday, Dick tries to throw and gets sore again. On Tuesday, Nutt asks Dean Weber to release a statement finally explaining the injury and we find out the truth, at least the latest version of it. That is, that several imaging scans have confirmed that Dick has “muscle tightness” brought on by a stress to the L-2 vertebrae and that there is no fracture, Weber is reported to have said by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Now, two-and-a-half weeks before the start of the season, Dick is finally sent to Little Rock for treatment on his back. By this time, Dean Weber is in full damage control mode: “When I talked to Casey today, he said the rehabilitation he underwent in Little Rock almost nearly matched what we’ve been doing here,” Weber said. “At this point in Casey’s rehab, we felt it necessary to reaffirm for both Casey and for ourselves the protocols that our staff had been following. We will continue this course of therapy, and as soon as Casey reaches the point where he can return, he will.”
It’s difficult to imagine that Casey Dick’s injury situation could have been handled any worse. For his sake, let’s hope that he finds a doctor he can trust, follows that doctor’s advice, and comes back to play when he’s fully healthy. Whether that’s this year or next.
J.R. and Henry blog their sports column at Little Rocking twice a week.