The dirty little secret of the NFL is the fact that gambling has always fueled football’s popularity.
Ever wonder why point spreads are printed in every single newspaper across the country despite the fact that sports gambling remains illegal in most of the land?
Hint, it’s not for entertainment purposes only.
It is a wink-wink to an underground world that helps keep interest in even the most moribund of games. Even if the schedule makers do a poor job and put together a bad Monday night game for instance, plenty are watching in hopes of offsetting their Sunday losses or parlaying their winnings into even more cash.
Injury reports have always gone hand in hand with that nod toward gambling. Even though the league would never explicitly endorse you placing a few bucks on your favorite team, they want you to fully understand who and who isn’t going to be available for every game.
That openness is very important in an effort to keep everything above board because the worst-case scenario for any sports league is a public that believes the game is tainted.
Recently, however, there has been at a little shift around the NFL’s reporting on injuries, at least with certain teams who want the added competitive advantage a questionable player might provide. After all if a star really is 50-50 for Sunday, the opposition almost has to prepare like he’s going to be available. And if that same cog is doubtful or ruled out, well you can game plan for the replacement which could be a significant difference.
The Minnesota Vikings got a few extra looks last week when their best pass rusher Everson Griffen was unable to play against Kansas City despite the fact he didn’t appear on any of the team’s injury reports leading up to the game.
As far as Andy Reid was concerned, Griffen was going to be at right end as usual for the Vikings until he was scratched before the game with an illness that evidently cropped up so late that Minnesota was unable to add the dynamic edge player to the injury report on Saturday.
It’s not like that’s a completely implausible scenario with food poisoning just one of the possibilities that could have ailed Griffen in the 23rd hour. But, we all have to continue to speculate because the larger issue here is that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has refused to reveal what was exactly wrong with his defensive end.
Griffen was back at practice Thursday and the best news of all is that the illness wasn’t something very serious because it was bad enough that he spent the vast majority of his Sunday at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis while getting texted well-wishes from concerned teammates.
Griffen like Zimmer, though, refused to disclose his situation other than to say it started Sunday morning and that he was happy that the Vikings’ medical staff took every precaution. He was eventually discharged from the hospital and returned home to catch the last five minutes of Minnesota’s win over the Chiefs, where his understudy, rookie Danielle Hunter, performed admirably.
Griffen also claimed he will be 100 percent for the Vikings’ next game at Detroit and doesn’t expect to feel any lingering effects.
So now it’s up to you to put those pieces together and figure out what actually happened.
And that’s not right.
Some apologists of coaches who play fast and loose with reporting injuries, or in this case an illness, have wrongfully cited the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in an effort to deflect away from the issue.
But, that’s a red herring and NFL teams are not violating any part of HIPAA privacy laws by truthfully disclosing issues as they are required to do by the league.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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