In response to a report that Ravens receiver Steve Smith has four broken bones in his back and another report that those four broken bones are ribs, the Ravens have provided information beyond the confines of their weekly injury reporting obligations.
“While the Ravens do not give specifics about injuries out of respect to the men on our team and HIPAA laws, we want to dispel rumors and stories currently being reported about Steve Smith Sr.’s injury,” Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said in a statement. “He does have a back injury. It is not a surgical issue. His status is currently week-to-week.”
It’s unclear why the Ravens opted to say anything about Smith’s situation; uncertainty and misinformation only keeps opponents guessing. The Ravens had no obligation to disclose any information about Smith until Wednesday, and the only requirement at that point would have been to say whether and to what extent he practices, with a label applied to his injured body part.
The reference to HIPAA seems a bit unusual; the entire injury-reporting function necessarily violates the privacy rights of players. Of course, some players welcome the disclosure of information about their injuries, since it can provide an explanation for poor performance. With some teams, the no-comment mandate given to players by the coaching staff creates tension, if players are being criticized for poor performance without anyone knowing that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weakened.
With Smith, the spirit is always willing. Any injury that would be bad enough to keep him off the field in his final NFL season must be pretty bad. Otherwise, he’d ice up and suit up and then proceed to mess someone up.