Every football coach will, from time to time, massage the truth for strategic reasons.
Coaches are most inclined to do so when it comes to injuries, especially during that portion of the calendar when there’s no obligation to say anything to anyone about who is hurt and how long they’ll be unavailable or otherwise limited. The league doesn’t require teams to utter a word about injured players until the filing of the first practice report prior to Week One.
So a little lying goes with the territory. It’s an extension of the deception that occurs on the field, when trying to fool the opponent into thinking that the offense or the defense or the special teams will be doing something other than what it appears the offense or the defense or the special teams will be doing.
Recently, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin took full advantage of the absence of offseason injury-reporting rules by opting not to disclose that receiver Brian Hartline was absent from a mandatory minicamp because had undergone surgery for an appendectomy. Instead, Philbin said that Hartline had a “personal issue,” which technically is true. With ever-increasing sensitivity regarding the disclosure of medical information by persons other than the patient, it was a prudent move.
Once Hartline acknowledged on WQAM radio that he had undergone the surgical removal of a useless organ that inexplicably can become infected and, if not thereafter removed, explode into a mess of goo that, if not thereafter cleaned up, lead to death, Brian Briggane of the Palm Beach Post called Philbin out for not being honest about the situation.
Philbin believed that Briggane had accused the first-year head coach of being disingenuous and/or flat-out lying. Philbin explained that, since it wasn’t an injury but a medical condition, he decided to apply the term “personal issue.” Briggane explains in his latest post on the matter that he regards “personal issue” as a family issue or some other circumstance unrelated to the specific status of the player’s person.
Reasonable minds can differ on this one, but we think it was reasonable for Philbin to handle the situation the way that he did.
Some will say Philbin should show thicker skin. But Philbin apparently plans not to gripe directly to members of the media regarding commentary that focuses on his primary job duties.
“I’ll have no problem with you criticizing my coaching abilities, and I figure you’ll get the chance to do that pretty soon,” Philbin told Briggane.
We definitely will, starting with the debut of Hard Knocks in little more than a month.