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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tebow Should Not Play Saturday

BATON ROUGE - Even if Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is cleared today or on Friday or on Saturday to play at LSU Saturday night, he should not play.

That's what his father should say. That's what his coach should say.

If Tebow, who suffered a concussion on Sept. 26 at Kentucky, is deemed ready to play Friday, that would mean he would be even more ready to play next week with a full week of real practice. That is what Florida should be shooting for with Tebow - Arkansas on Oct. 17 or maybe the next game.

Dr. Michael Kaplan, an ESPN medical analyst, has already said Tebow is "probably a go" for the LSU game. "Probably?" This is not a knee or a shoulder. It's not something you can rush. It's not something you can suck up. Even if his brain is ready, it can be more ready.

"You can't fix the brain," said ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge in the Palm Beach Post this week.

Hoge played in the NFL until two concussions ended his career in 1994. He tried to come back too early from the first one and was knocked out again. He underwent 18 months of rehabilitation and had to learn how to read again after he lost his vital signs and was in intensive care for two days.

"You only get one," Hoge said of his brain.

It's already Thursday, and Tebow's brain has not taken a good hit yet. Tebow does not need to take his first good hit at LSU Saturday night. He needs to take it in practice next week, and then a few more. They don't let players coming off knee injuries play until they can take a hit or cut on the knee, but they're going to let a guy with a brain injury play a day or two after he's cleared or on the day he's cleared?

There was a diagram of Tebow's brain on ESPN today. What are we doing? This is a kid, and it's just one game. He needs to relax.

At this point, Tebow will not be ready to play Saturday. And a player should never be asked to play in any way but all out. It's not in Tebow's makeup to play hard a little. Florida owes it to Tebow to not let him play Saturday so he will be at his best in the future. He does have an NFL future. Does anyone at Florida realize that?

Maybe Florida coach Urban Meyer has already decided not to play Tebow and, for silly, military-style, seemingly strategic reasons that football coaches love to use, just does not want LSU to know. This would be understandable, but I don't think that's the case.

Meyer has said he sees Tebow as a son, but it seems like he wants too badly for Tebow to play.

Meyer said on Wednesday that he knows the grade concussion Tebow has but does not want to say what it is. That sounds a little sinister.

Tebow should not be in any pressure situation to play. He needs to be brought along slowly. Probably no one is pressuring him to play, but all the attention his injury has received in itself is pressuring him to play. Particularly the way Florida is handling it. "Can he play? Can he play? Can he play?"

If Tebow was a college kid playing club rugby, do you think his dad would want him to play two weeks after he was rushed to the hospital with a concussion? The magnitude of a game should have nothing to do with his recovery calendar. Tebow's recovery should be governed by his recovery not by a kickoff time.

Tebow and those in his family should be thinking about his future even if he isn't. Tebow's 22.

Kids that age do not usually think past the weekend. Tebow needs to be thinking past this weekend and to the nine, eight, seven or fewer weekends he has left this season. And if he's not, someone needs to tell him to do so.

Tebow needs to be thinking about weekends 20 years from now when he's done with football and reading to his kids and living with the brain of a 42-year-old and not the brain of a 62-year-old. This is his first concussion, and it needs to be babied so he does not become like so many NFL players that the NFL doesn't care about and tries to keep a secret.

Yes, the greatest medical team assembled by a college football program is working with Tebow, but there is no way they do not feel pressure to let Tebow play. And again, even if he is ready to play in their minds, he will be more ready the next week and the next if he doesn't play this weekend. There's no sense hurrying. Just think of the national outrage Meyer and Florida will receive if Tebow doesn't get up from another hit Saturday!

It shouldn't matter, but Florida does not need this LSU win. It will have a great chance of winning with backup quarterback John Brantley because of what its national champion defense can do to a still-disjointed and inconsistent LSU offense that struggled to score against one of the SEC's worst defenses last week.

Even if Florida loses, it could win the rest of its games and beat LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game and still win another national championship. If Florida and Meyer are so consumed with winning, it needs to realize that Tebow may be a better quarterback later in the season if he doesn't play this week.

Florida should have already come out with an announcement that Tebow is not playing. This would send a great message to all the coaches at all levels of football that even one of the toughest players ever to put on a helmet in college football is going to take a step back and make double sure he's ready. This is the 21st century. You don't play with a concussion so soon.
But no, Meyer and the Florida camp want to keep playing games with a game in which Tebow should not play.

"There are little leaguers, wanna-be coaches all over the country watching this," Hoge said. "He's sending the wrong message, and he needs to zip it, quick."

Meyer is also hurting his team by not making it clear early in the week what his quarterback plan was. Practice is virtually over for the week now. Meyer had a chance to announce Brantley as the starter Tuesday and let his team rally around Brantley. Brantley and all of his teammates instead are left up in the air.

"I would like to know to get my head in the right place," Brantley said. "It's a little difficult. I don't know when I'm going to get the word."

That's Meyer's fault.

If Tebow does play, it could do more harm than good to the Gators. His teammates will be distracted, particularly the offensive linemen, whose job it is to protect him. They'll be more worried about Tebow not getting hit than playing LSU.

Meyer needs to end this medical countdown and just say Tebow is not playing Saturday because waiting is the right thing to do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Meyer knows what grade of concussion Tebow has, then he knows it's not mild. Tebow would not have laid on the field motionless for so long after a mild concussion, nor vomited 5-6 times on the way to the ER, nor unable to watch TV until this week.

If the FL medical staff are making the call, he should not play at LSU. He doesn't need another concussion this soon, and if he plays, he's going to get hit ... and hard.

LSU players may not want to "take him out of the game" this year, but everyone close to Tebow has to realize how very likely that is, if he tries to come back too soon.

2:03 PM  

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