Hoke Defends Handling Of Morris, Says Statement From Medical Staff Coming
By Ashley Dunkak
ANN ARBOR (CBS DETROIT) - Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said he would never send a player into a game if he suspected the player might have suffered a head injury.
Saturday, though, Wolverines quarterback Shane Morris continued to play despite a late hit to the chin that all on its own looked severe enough to warrant removal from the game for a concussion test. In addition to the hit, Morris' reaction concerned many.
Morris wobbled as he got up, then nearly collapsed in the arms of one of his offensive linemen. Morris stayed in the game for another play. Then he came out, but when Devin Gardner had to return to the sideline, Morris went back in the game.
Morris had been playing despite a leg injury when a defender drilled him. The blow was sufficiently violent that broadcaster Ed Cunningham, who was calling the game, decried the hit as illegal and worthy of ejection and suspension.
The video has sparked a national outcry over Michigan's handling of the quarterback.
Head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier both said they did not see the hit or the reaction of Morris, and they said they do not decide when players leave the game because of injury.
Hoke would not answer a question Monday about whether, now that he has seen the hit, he believed Morris should have been taken out of the game and not allowed to return.
"Hindsight is good. It's easy today," Hoke said. "It's easy yesterday. As far as seeing the film, I saw the film yesterday and watched the coaches' copy, and we obviously turned in the hit [as targeting].
"You're being hypothetical," Hoke continued, "and we're not going to work in hypotheticals."
Hoke said Morris told coaches he almost collapsed because his ankle gave out. Hoke also said Morris would have practiced Sunday if not for a high ankle sprain and that, to his knowledge, Morris has not been diagnosed with a concussion.
Hoke informed the media that the team's medical staff would be issuing a statement - which as of 2 p.m. had yet to be released - and he said he does not question what trainers tell him regarding the availability of players.
"If our trainer says one thing, I'm not going to say the other, because he knows that," Hoke said. "If our doctor says one thing, and this guy is studied in the field and knows that, it'd be like him telling me, 'Run a zone blitz on third down.' What does he know about a zone blitz on third down? So to me it doesn't make any sense for me to override."
Put bluntly, the video looks bad. It evidently looked just as worrisome to Cunningham, the broadcaster calling the game.
"It was appalling that he was left in on that play, to throw the ball again, as badly as he was hit by Cockran," Cunningham said. "To have No. 7 in the game after a hit like that, that was terrible looking after a young player."
The announcer expressed further distress when Morris returned to the game.
"Shane Morris cannot be going back into this game," Cunningham said. "This young man looked groggy after that hit; he's being put back on the field. He can barely stand up. This is not good player management. We've talked about player safety in this game, guys getting hit in the head. This is atrocious to me."
Hoke said after the game that he did not know if the player was concussed. Instead, he made a remark about how Morris clearly wanted to stay in the game, a comment which failed to address why no Michigan staff member evidently noticed the quarterback's distress or found it worrisome enough to pull him off the field and perform right after the hit.
"Shane's a pretty tough kid, and Shane wanted to be the quarterback," Hoke said after the game. "Believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline, or stayed down."
The Wolverines issued a statement from the coach on Sunday night touting player safety as a priority. The release did not include rationale for Morris staying in the game or returning to the game.
"The safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority," Hoke stated in the release. "We generally never discuss the specifics of a student-athlete's medical care, but Shane Morris was removed from yesterday's game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest. He was evaluated by our experienced athletic trainers and team physicians, and we're confident proper medical decisions were made. The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition. The health and welfare of our student-athletes is and will continue to be a top priority."
for more features.