John Harbaugh tees off on NFL’s injury-reporting rules


Between Jim and John Harbaugh, the brother viewed as most likely to come a little (or a lot) unglued at a press conference was Jim.  Competitive to the point of obsessive, Jim’s blood easily runs hot — and it take a long while to cool off.

So it was a surprise, to say the least, to hear Ravens coach John Harbaugh get worked up in response to questions regarding the $20,000 fine imposed last week on the Ravens for failing to disclose the shoulder injury with which safety Ed Reed had been practicing and playing.  The folks at 105.7 the Fan in Baltimore have forwarded the audio to us, and it’s strong to quite strong.

“The way the thing is written, it says if a player has practiced fully or played fully and he has an injury and he’s a significant player and it affects his play it should be on there,” Harbaugh said.  ‘Well, I think player safety’s important for all the players.  I’m gonna say that every injury is significant, if that’s how they want to word it.   So I’m not gonna go with the league saying that one player is more significant than another player.  That’s absurd to me.  So they can get mad if they want for saying that, but they need to write that a little more clearly in our opinion.  We’ll just put every guy that has a hangnail, and we’ll go from there.”

Harbaugh wasn’t done.  He cut off a reporter mid-question and continued with his observations, which have plenty of merit.

“Here’s the other thing about that,” Harbaugh said, pointing out that he was ignoring for the second time the body language of team P.R. guru Kevin Byrne.  “Aren’t there HIPAA rights here?  I mean, if I’m a player and I’ve been playing and I’ve been out there playing and I don’t want that on the injury report, and I’m told I have to put that on the injury report, we’ve got some players that resent that.  So, yeah, I’ve got a problem with that, in all honesty.”

Of course, the problem arose only because Reed saw fit to talk publicly about an injury that hadn’t been disclosed by the Ravens.  So the message for the Ravens and every other team is that it’s important to get your ducks in a row regarding which guys do and which guys don’t want to be on the injury report — if you’re going to try to conceal injuries.

“If a guy goes out there and doesn’t miss a practice, doesn’t miss a game, and doesn’t wanna be on the injury report and we have to put him on the injury report, I want the league’s answer on that,” Harbaugh said.  “I’m looking forward to hearing that.  So I’ll probably get fined for that now.”

He didn’t stop there.  After pointing out that an opponent’s injury report is “without value” and then being reminded that Tom Brady was routinely on the Patriots’ report with an apparently embellished shoulder injury, Harbaugh said sharply, “Thank you.”

“Bill [Belichick] figured it out way before the rest of us did,” Harbaugh added.  “His injury report’s that long, its been that way for years.  We tried to do it the other way and be honest — not honest, honest is a bad word, retract that, scratch that — we tried to be straightforward with our injury report, and we got fined for it.  So we’re moving on.”

And that was the end of the press conference.  “OK, thanks,” Harbaugh said.  “That was worth it, wasn’t it?  Thanks for coming.”

NFL?  The ball is back in your court on this one.

56 responses to “John Harbaugh tees off on NFL’s injury-reporting rules

  1. Since the league has decided that failure to disclose an injury warrants a fine, the solution is simple: List every player the 53-man roster as ‘Injured – Questionable’.

    It wouldn’t be a lie, either. Anyone who’s played the game knows that every single player is hurting one way or another. The game hurts, and these guys are tough. When a player says he can’t go, you damn well better believe he’s in pain, big time.

    The league wants full disclosure? There it is…

  2. I’ve wondered about the medical records privacy aspect for a while now. It’s rather interesting that a basic federal protection it tossed aside like that.

  3. Whether you like him or not, on this issue he’s right.
    Why wouldn’t a player always want an injury reported? Well consider that a RB that has a problem with an ankle or knee. If reportede it is going to be exploited by his upcoming opposition, and that isn’t an opening for a “bounty” joke…it is just the way it is and the way it always has been.

  4. Harbawl will always whine and complain about everything, including what music is played at stadiums. Guess it got even worse after the Ravens were Vick-timized by the Eagles this season, while the Steelers were not. Come on 11/18, time for this over-rated and over-hyped team to deflate. THUD.

  5. What a clown. All these years and he’s just discovering that there’s a procedure to follow? He just now thinks it’s poorly worded? Hippa? Why now?

    Because he got caught trying to hide an injury!

  6. @norseyapper

    If he’s right then as usual why doesn’t the NFLPA bring this up during the negotiations. If the players feel that their medical records should be private then do something about it at the right time.

    It always seems to be when someone gets caught at something. Adderall maybe.

  7. Injury disclosure is key so gamblers dont get private info. If teams do not take the injury list seriously, take a 3rd round pick away but only if it is fully disclosed.

  8. While the league is clarifying who should be on the injured list it should also explain the reason for the injury list. It is for the benefit of the opponent or is it intended to assist odds makers set the line. The NFL has had an unholy alliance with gambling interests since the inception of professional football. It is understandable when a coach becomes frustrated with reports that have no value to the team. Harbaugh is correct in defying the league in the same manner as Belichick by putting everyone with a sore pinky on the list.

  9. HIPAA law? lol don’t make me laugh. Everybody knows the NFL is above those HIPAA laws when it comes to football related injuries.

  10. The vast majority of NFL players will tell you by this time of the year, everyone is dealing with some sort of injury, however minor it may be. Nobody is 100% after week 1. The pretense, of course, is playing time.

  11. Florio and PFT Staff,

    This is interesting stuff. 2 Story ideas I’d like to see pursued from this:

    (1) How these rules, designed to prevent insider knowledge for gambling, completely fly in the face of player safety.

    (2) Interested to hear legal analysis on if HIPPA is violated with the injury report or whether HIPPA rights are waived through the CBA. My guess is a that a Union has no legal right to waive HIPPA on behalf of a person.

  12. LOL, he things the rule is for the players safety. Its for the bookmakers. If it was for the players safety, he is right. You never want the opposing team to know if you have a week point you can exploid.
    You might laugh at Patriots injury report, but they avoid a lot of fines that way.

  13. Jon is absolutely on point here. I can’t believe that the NFL can just blow past HIPAA, but if they can just abuse the system like mightymightylafootball stated above. List all of the with some sort of soreness. All 53 of them should be on there. I am no fan of Bill Belichick, but he has just made fun of the whole system by listing Brady on it all the time.

  14. What type of reaction would you expect if you were wound tight as a drum from worrying about 11/18/12 and the inevitable downward spiral of your team and end of your season?

  15. Even though I’m a Steeler fan, I agree 100% with Coach Harbaugh on this. The injury reporting is useless and serves no purpose other than for betting, which the league is not supposed to be concerned with. List every player as “questionable” and dare The Great Goodell Himself Live And In Person to prove otherwise.

  16. Belichick is a smart man in that regard. His injury report list is insanely long, a complete exaggeration and now people know why. It prevents him from having to deal with the NFL’s front office.

  17. I should of added this but you know what, every head coach should adopt Belichick’s injury report style. List every play with a bump, bruise, abrasion, as questionable. The NFL wants injury reports (even some are supposed to be optional), give them injury reports!

  18. Also, in all seriousness:

    I agree with Harbaugh, but I’m pretty sure we can knock down the HIPPAAAA thing right now. As far as my understanding goes, HIPAA protects your medical records from being publicly available, and even if you make them available I think you can choose to withhold any information on drug/alcohol addiction, communicable diseases, etc.

    When someone gives an insurance company or whomever authorization to release their medical records, it takes about a one page boilerplate agreement signed by the patient to make them available. So…

    I don’t think it’s a HIPAA issue anyway because no one’s medical records or history of communicable disease and addiction are being released, and (2) even if it were I’m sure it’s something that is worked into NFL player’s signing their life away to the league

  19. Hairbough: “So I’m not gonna go with the league saying that one player is more significant than another player.”

    So I guess if he had the choice of his starting quarterback or his third string running back being injured, it wouldn’t matter to him either way. Sure.

  20. he’s correct,put the whole team on the list.
    it’s a vegas thing..nothing to do with the
    STEELERS there already done

  21. cliffordc05 says:Nov 2, 2012 3:19 PM

    … also explain the reason for the injury list. … is it intended to assist odds makers set the line. The NFL has had an unholy alliance with gambling interests since the inception of professional football.

    Hey, all you youngsters out there. cliffordco5 knows. It’s the betting line that made the NFL what it is today. Nothing else.

  22. Another point is that sometimes you need to conceal an injury to protect a player, eg. If a player has bruised ribs, if the other team knows this, they will focus on hitting those ribs every chance… at some point you got to conceal the injuries so that the other team doesn’t focus on aggravating it.

  23. steelers fans are funny. ya’ll lost to the raiders and titans. The only reason the ravens lost to the eagles is because the replacement refs called a phantom offensive pass interference when the defender has his back to the ball on a jacoby jones TD in the 4th quarter that would have iced the game for baltimore. I just hope the players can handle a fist fight 2 times in 3 weeks. Should be fun

  24. Everyone knows the Nazi’s of the NFL do what they want and interpret things that goes there way no matter how wrong,stupid ad twisted it is.

  25. If they are categorizing these injuries as “work related” and their respective organizations are paying for their healthcare when it comes to those injuries… Then NO HIPPA violations exist as of yet… Work related or workers compensation records are NOT covered by the current HIPPA regulations… so in that case there’s your answer

  26. The whining from Harbag is nothing new. He is the lead whine the players and fans emulate. He may have a point in this case, but the rat birds and their fans whine way too much to be class organization. LOL we know they will fade in Jan as usual.

  27. HIPPA applies here IF the players did not void their rights to privacy. Contrary to what some here believe, HIPPA covers one’s privacy of all health related information. It is not specific to a certain type of health info. Injuries do apply. It is interesting that the NFL wants to protect something of no apparent value to the game.

  28. Hey Steeler fans…Quit with the whinning comments…

    What about the Flopping rule? Perhaps Emmanuel Sanders can give us a better description?

  29. tundey says: Nov 2, 2012 3:21 PM

    HIPAA law? lol don’t make me laugh. Everybody knows the NFL is above those HIPAA laws when it comes to football related injuries.


    Legally, they are not.

    I have never seen any exemptions.

  30. I laughed last week when the Raiders had 20 players on the injury report, this week 17. I think one of em was Sebastion Janikowski had a blister on his finger, lol. might as well make everyone questionable. its a joke.

  31. When the NFL forces teams to do things like this , that have no valid reason on the field except to allow other teams to exploit an injured player and help the Vegas bottom line how is that about player safety . This is why teams like the Pats keep people guessing to the other side of it if u can’t keep people off the list put everybody on it . Doing it that way isn’t a lie by now every player has something wrong with him big or small …..

  32. @edisnotbetterthantroy, what do the steelers have to do with this article ? Your comment proves the whining nature of rat bird fans. The steeler fans aren’t whining you are. Grow up!

  33. isn’t this discussion moot since Reed disclosed his own injury? yeah you don’t want the other team to know an injury or the extent of one. but is a player is dumb enough to brag about playing injured, even though his team is hiding it then they get what they deserve.

  34. How about just shutting up and doing as you’re told? Bite the gambling/fantasy sports hand that feeds this league, and see how many people acknowledge your Thursday night games like KC/SD and Jags/Colts.

  35. the moron fans whose only argument is “you lost to the raiders and titans!” it’s professional football…any team can beat another at any time. Are the steelers better than those two teams? Yes, but across country trip to the west coast to play in Oakland, a short week playing on the road thursday night in Tennessee… Not to shocking they lost. It can happen, the better team can’t always win. Are the cardinals better than the patriots? No, are the Vikings better than the 49ers? No. It would be nice if some of you would use a few extra brain cells and actually have some perspective.

  36. Went to my bookie to get a refund on my bets tied with the ravens because I didn’t know reed was injured. he told me to beat it. Going to appeal to goodells office. Think I have 50/50 shot

  37. For a common opponent, the Ravens were Vick-timized by the Eagles this year, the Steelers were not. Steelers downward spiral is now over with a 2 game winning streak, Ravens downward spiral us just beginning. Steelers win 11/18.

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