Q&A with David Steele



Sun columnist answers questions from Sports Direct subscribers

Evagelos, Baltimore: Hello, David. Let me start off by saying, I have been a long-time reader of your column and love the you tell it the way it is while staying open and objective. My question has to do with our two defensive stars, Ray Lewis/Ed Reed, being out of the lineup for so long. Do you have any insight on why they have been sidelined with these "injuries" for so long? Are they dodging a bad season, showing their displeasure with their current contract negotiations or are they really that hurt? It seems that the team and the media seem to be tiptoeing around this subject. Could you please shine some light on this subject or at least give your opinion on this subject? Thanks!

Thomas, Fort Collins, Colo: Will Ray Lewis and Ed Reed take off their skirts and play any football at all in this dismall season? By the way Ed, there is no such thing as a high ankle sprain, I Googled it.

David Steele: Hello, Evagelos and Thomas. Thanks for the compliment, Evagelos, I'll try to keep my work at that level for you.

I grouped your questions, and this answer, together for obvious reasons. I thought you were blunt, Evagelos, until I read Thomas's question. Yikes. I'm re-defining the term.

I appreciate your plain-speaking nature, Thomas, but just for the heck of it, I Googled 'high ankle sprain' and got several descriptions in medical web sites and journals, all of which mesh with the explanations us newspapers hacks have gotten from team doctors and trainers in recent years, since the description first came into vogue. Not to get all Sanjay Gupta on you (he's CNN's medical analyst, by the way) but high ankle sprains are real; they just look really different from the usual ankle sprains because they take place, well, up high. Ligaments, but not joints, are involved. I guess the exceedingly lazy player could fake one, but the ones who have them are in legitimate pain. Todd Heap had one last season, and not only did he miss almost 11 weeks, not many fans wondered aloud whether he was wearing a skirt. And hamstring strains are serious as well, mainly because if you play on one before it heals, it can go at any second from a strain to a tear. This has been your Baltimore Sun Medical Minute.

Now, are either of them rushing back? No, and plenty of football people would back them up considering this has become a lost season. Getting even more seriously injured in a game with no playoff implications is, at best, questionable, and at worst, stupid. It's not many levels above playing on a bad knee in preseason.

I might be naive, or at least less likely to jump to negative conclusions about a highly-paid player than many, but I'd be surprised if either Ed or Ray are sitting out to make a statement about the contract extensions they want. Ray Lewis has been in the middle of contract hassles before, and yet the only times he's been off the field is when he's been seriously injured. As for Reed, if he can't do the things he's capable of doing - basically, if he can't cover the field and make a quarterback think twice about throwing anywhere near him - he's a liability. Or, he's no better than Chad Williams, so you might as well just play Williams.

Having said all of that, I can't completely rule out one of Evagelos' theories: that they're "dodging bad seasons." Going out and playing while injured, getting hurt again or playing at half-efficiency, taking playing time away from someone whose future might depend on it, and continuing to lose anyway, isn't exactly a cheery prospect. Even with the money they make, I'm not sure how eager I would be to do it.

Sam, Baltimore: Why do you and others keep beating on this team? Even before the season you should have known they weren't a good team.If you and others keep beating on Boller what good will that do?

David Steele: Hi, Sam. True, before the season we did know they weren't a good team. We who write for The Sun said so, quite directly. A lot of people flat-out didn't believe it, though. A lot of people thought we were being too harsh after the Colts game, after the Tennessee game, even after the Lions game - because it was too early, because we weren't being fair to Kyle Boller or Jim Fassel or Jamal Lewis, because the refs were screwing them. For several weeks, there were too many excuses being made for why they were off to such a bad start, and too many exotic explanations as to how they were going to return to the playoff level so many had predicted for them. So yes, not to pat ourselves on the back, but we were pretty much in the minority early on. A lot of us could see the bad signs back in the preseason.

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