Tape It Up: The Virtue Of Silence

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The Virtue Of Silence

Kentucky and Louisville's rivalry extends so far outside the lines, it has infiltrated the injury report. When the Wildcats take on the Cardinals on Saturday, Steve Kragthorpe and Co. should be as familiar with the injuries plaguing Kentucky's lineup as the players themselves, but Rich Brooks' staff won't know what to expect until certain Cardinals remain on the bench at Commonwealth Stadium. And both coaches are well aware of the consequences of their choice to fill in or force out.

Brooks is accustomed to giving constant updates on the status of his players to anyone who cares enough to ask. He begins every press meeting by rattling off the team's injuries from top to bottom, going into as much detail as reporters request to hear.

"I just don't see any merit to covering up injuries," the fifth-year head coach said. "They are what they are."

Kragthorpe, on the other hand, sees quite a bit of merit in keeping his ailments a secret. He believes that keeping the word mum creates competitive advantage for his team going into every game, as opponents are never sure what personnel to expect on (or off) the field. Kragthorpe makes it a policy to discuss only season-ending injuries and nothing less, refusing to comment on whether a player will miss time at a certain position or why.

Many coaches choose not to trust injury reports that they do receive, but rather than gamble on the merit an opposing team will assign to injury news, Kragthorpe prefers to keep coaches in the dark alltogether. During his senior year at West Texas State, Kragthorpe played with a broken hand and did not want his opponents to know, so he has imbued the entire team with that personal philosophy in his first year as head coach.

"I have sons that play football," Kragthorpe said. "Say my son sprains his left ankle and I disclose he has a sprained left ankle. What do you think happens on the first series of the game? They're going to go after his sprained left ankle. So I have a hard time facing a parent when I walk out of the locker room if I've given out that information about their son. I wouldn't want that info given out about my son."

Since there is no commisisoner of college football to require weekly injury updates, as the NFL does, each coach is permitted his own injury policy and Louisville and Kentucky present perhaps the two furthest ends of the spectrum - silence and full disclosure, respectively. Connecticut's Randy Edsall resides in the silence camp with Kragthorpe, declining all injury talk. Louisiana State's Les Miles falls somewhere in the middle, as he offers updates but describes himself as deliberately "evasive" about injuries. Florida's Urban Meyer is notorious for the conflicting reports he gave about quaterback Chris Leak in 2005, leading to the nickname "Urban Liar." Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas are usually as tight-lipped as Louisville has been, and every other head coach in the nation falls somewhere between the Louisville - Kentucky continuum.

Whether or not coaches know in advance who will be playing on Saturday, the best coaches are the ones who can make in-game adjustments to compensate not just for injured players, but also for individuals having exceptional days or team strengths that develop as a game progresses. While knowing an individual's physical condition beforehand may be an advantage, having a savvy, quick-thinking coach who can make the changes necessary to win is undeniably a greater one.

All those competitive advantages, and more, should be on full display this Saturday in Lexington.

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