Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Sep 2005

No Thanks

If you scroll down to the second story of the Steelers' Notebook, you'll find this peculiar bit:

"As tackle Matt Light lay on the turf with a serious leg injury in the second quarter, [Steelers' trainer John] Norwig ran over to see if he could help, as opposing trainers often will do with serious injuries.

Belichick walked out on the field and told Norwig, in no uncertain terms, to get away from his player. Norwig walked off the field and could be seen laughing about it with several Steelers doctors on the sideline."

I know that Belichick considers injury reports a matter of national security, but this seems like a bit much.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 26 Sep 2005

42 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2005, 9:21pm by Carl


by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 9:48pm

If I recall correctly, Red Auerbach would do the same sort of thing...or at least, preach that type of attitude.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 9:48pm

You're confused by this, Ryan? This is why Belichick has a Nobel Prize in Football and you don't.


by RIch (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 9:48pm

I think Bill just takes game planning very seriously. If you dont know who is starting next week, you can't gameplan against them.

by Glenn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:25pm

You're kidding about this "being a bit much", right?

The Pats have their own trainers who are eminently capable of determining what to do, so why on earth would Belichick want to let the opposing team have any insight at all on the injury situation of a key player and give them thoughts on how to game plan the rest of the contest? Maybe BB wasn't especially polite in making this clear but, uh, so what?

by RyanW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:49pm


Uh, no, I wasn't kidding. If, God forbid, one of the Pats had suffered an injury similar to Tommy Maddox's during the 2002 season (when he was temporarily paralyzed), and Belichick yelled at the Steelers' trainer for trying to help one of his players, I'm guessing it would be pretty big news. Look, I understand that Belichick wants to keep a competitive advantage, but it's still just a game, and if an injury requires immediate attention, treatment -- no matter which qualified person administers it -- seems to take precedence over game planning.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:50pm

I'd think you'd want all the help you can get, especially if it's from the guy who actually works in that facility. Obviously BB is a master genius and this is all a plan for him to hide Light until the right moment.

"Wait, is that - it is! It's Matt Light's music!"

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:25am

The hoodie drawn tight, the injury report kept tighter, the myth continues to build. I realize that he's "the mastermind" but to blanket this under gameplanning is just plain silly. There's not going to be anything that a trainer can get from providing immediate assistance that won't be disclosed in the injury reports.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:31am

At his best, Belichick is meticulous and detail-oriented. At his worst, petty and small-minded.

This particular action wasn't Belichick's best.

by charles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:50am

The best part about belichick is that he probably thought about this situation before the game like... let me keep a clear line to the field in case i have to chase off a trainer. What would have happened if the trainer stayed their and helped him? I'm guessing belichick would have pulled out a taser and shocked him.

by BillinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:53am

Sorry, I've got to side with Glenn on this one. NE has plenty of capable medical staff, of which they know all their credentials. Frankly, I'm surprised a Steelers personnel would attempt to help.

by Glenn (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:20am

Thanks Bill.

Now, if Harrison had indeed suffered a paralyzing injury like Tommy Maddox' and the Pats med people needed assistance, I'm gonna guess that they would take it.

But that didnt happen. So Bill didnt treat the situation like that. Let me go get a physician's handbook....If we come up with enough medical scenarios, I'm sure we could cover what BB's reaction might be to all of them.

by Raul Allegre's Revenge (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:23am

Let me go get a physician’s handbook….If we come up with enough medical scenarios, I’m sure we could cover what BB’s reaction might be to all of them.

No need. I'm sure Belicheck's already got it covered.

by Bruce Dickinson (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:27am

Perhaps it was more human than people make him out to be. Think of it from this standpoint:
Summer: Lost TB to a stroke
Just before camp: TJ retires
Week 2: Tyrone Poole and Randall Gay
Week 3, 1st qtr: Rodney Harrison
A few minutes later: Matt Light

they seem to be unaffected by injuries in terms of the on-field result (most of the time), but that many guys? as a pats homer i cut him some slack. plus it may have been a knee jerk reaction to watching Harrison's knee jerk in season ending fashion only minutes before.

by MDZ (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:41am

Did anyone else catch the Bonnie Bernstein report before halftime where she said the Pats medical staff said that Harrison's return to the game was uncertain.

by bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:35am

RE: 14
MDZ, when Bonnie said his return to the game was uncertain, she was talking big-picture, as in his return the the game of professional football.
He's no spring chicken and I just heard he damaged all three "L's" in the knee. (Which of course means he'll be listed as questionable by the master in Wednesday's injury report.)

by kachunk (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:21am

The Pats may have plenty of qualified medical staff, but they don't have the same facilities on location as the Steelers do. I'd imagine that makes a fairly big difference.

Overall I'd say it's a fairly classless to turn away assistance for your injured player simply for the sake of a competetive advantage. I think that's wrong--getting the best treatment for an injured player should be priority number one, forget about winning.


by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:41am

Qualified or no, the Patriots med staff aren't the ones with the cart driver's cellphone number. Or the ambulance guy's if it's urgent.

by Wicked (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:35am

I heard he was going to have Light's leg replaced with one from a guy on their practice squad, right there on the field, which proves that the Patriots are in fact, bionic.

Of course he wouldn't want Norwig to witness their secret....

by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 10:15am

The trainers and medical personel on all teams are there to help injured players. If the Steelers guy was there and an injured player was right in front of him, I'm sure it would have gone against everything he's done in his career to NOT go and see if he could help. He's not trying to steal some valuable injury information. He's trying to help a hurt player. It's fine if BB wants his people to do it, but he doesn't have to be a dick to a guy who's concerned about the injured player.

by BillinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 10:37am

kachunk and Israel, you guys are making some fairly significant assumptions. The Steelers have better medicial facililties, the Pats staff doesn't have the cart's cellphone number?

We're not talking about declining professional treatment, or choosing to do surgery with a butter knife in an unsterile locker room. The coach wanted his player evaluated by his own medical staff. I don't think that's too outrageous.

What exactly do you think the Steelers' trainer was going to do in those couple of seconds that was going to be value added that was so crazy to be declined? Magically fix the bone from being broken? Make sure Matt Light had a hand to hold?

by Tim (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:16am

I do not have a problem with the Pats turning away help but do you really think the coach is the best person to make that choice? Shouldn't the medicial staff be the ones to say if they need help. Now the coach should tell the medicial only take help if the injury is serious but he shouldn't be making the decision.

Re 15
There are 4 legiements in the knee the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial colateral ligament (MCL) and lateral colateral ligament (LCL)one for each side. ACL = front, PCL = back. LCL = outside, MCL = inside. Though the PCL is the rarest of the ligaments to be injuried.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:18am

"The Steelers have better medicial facililties..."

Actually, the Steelers do have better medical facilities. Why do I know this? Because they are the best in the NFL. The Pats actually have adapted some of the Steeler's medical care standards into their own organization, as have other competitors in the NFL.

by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:28am


That wouldn't surprise me, given how horrible their field is. They probably have to deal with a lot of injuries there.

Are there any statistics anywhere on the number of injuries that occur at each field? I would be willing to bet Heinz is up near the top. Of course, that may just because I'm a Pats fan and I've watched that field end the seasons of Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, and Matt Light (maybe) in the past two years...

by luz (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:35am

RE 14 and 15

bonny said that "harrisons return to the game is questionable"

in nfl lingo that means 50% and she was talking about his return to that game not his long term prospects. so MDZ is right, harrisons knee got blown up and the pats reported his return as 50/50.

by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:43am

Re #21 "There are 4 legiements (sic) in the knee"

Unless you are like Hines Ward.

(If you don't know what that means, click on my name and go about half way down the page.)

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:48am

Whether or not the Steelers have better facilities than the Pats doesn't matter. What would matter is that the Steelers had better facilities available at the time, since they were in Pittsburgh after all. Even if the Pats' facilities were far and away the best, if they have the fountain of youth, the River Styx, and Miracle Max's miracle pills, it wouldn't do a bit of good for Light, since he was in Pittsburgh and they were in Foxboro.

The Steelers offered help. This is of course the right thing to do, and standard practice.

The Pats declined. This is their prerogative. It's the way that they want to live, they can do just what they feel, no one can tell them what to do, coz what they're doin' they're doin' for you.

BB was a total jerk about it. That was unnecessary. That's the whole issue - nobody cares that they turned down help, which happens occasionally, but you really don't have to be a douchebag to someone who's trying to help you.

by Goldbach (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:07pm

Trogdor, you just wrote almost exactly what I wanted to write.

by kleph (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:42pm

does any of this have something to do with the fact belichick new fashion statment seems to be wearing medical scrubs?

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:36pm

"That wouldn’t surprise me, given how horrible their field is. They probably have to deal with a lot of injuries there."

The Steelers' synthetic grass field has shown a marked reduction in some injuries compared to Three Rivers. The only reason why the grass gets a bad name is because kickers hate to plant on the sand-like surface.

Walking and playing on it feels like grass.

"Are there any statistics anywhere on the number of injuries that occur at each field?"


"I would be willing to bet Heinz is up near the top."

Heinz is NO different from any other stadium except Indianapolis and St. Louis. There are about 6 percent more injuries that occur when teams play on AstroTurf, and they're the only ones left with the real concrete stuff.

On the other grass or synthetic fields, there is no statistically meaningful difference between injuries over a four year period.

Again, there is no injury correlation that involves WHERE a team plays (or even WHEN). The total number of injuries is actually fairly stable (albeit rising) for every team except those noted.

by Larry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:40pm

It is not the Pats perogative to decline the help. That would be the patient, Matt Light's, perogative (sp?). For BB to make medical decisions for his player is pretty much unconcionable without having knowledge of the injury's severity. It is possible he did have knowledge or some communication from his trainers that it was under control, but I don't get that sense from the description. This sort of thing deserves strong condemnation, particularly from the Player's Union, if the report is as it seems.

by GBS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:54pm

Both Indianapolis and St. Louis switched to Field Turf this year. There are NO NFL playing fields remaining with AstroTurf.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:59pm

You are right, GBS. But I don't have the injury database for this year, so I'm going with the old stuff.

by Sister Mary Theresa (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:18pm

At the end of the game as his team ran off the field, Belichick jumped into the third row, Seat C304, and sucker punched Sister Mary Theresa, long-time chaplain to the Steelers.

"She seems to have suffered some kidney damage," said Rev. Oscar Rooney of the Pittsburgh Diocese. "Corey Dillon held her down while his coach kicked her ribs in. He kept yelling, 'It's a tough habit to break, ain't it?'

"He's an evil, evil man."

Pittsburgh Police detectives were summoned from the Zone 1 station also to investigate a reported incident involving Belichik as he motored the team bus out of the North Shore neighborhood.

"We're trying to find out if he really aimed the Patriot's luxury bus toward a little crippled kid before it ran the boy over," said Det. Ronald Rooney.

Witnesses said they heard the coach scream, "I get extra points for the broken midget!" Seconds later, they said, they heard a loud "bump" and watched the Skyliner Bus pick up speed.

Witnesses said they heard a man they identified as the Patriots' coach yell, "Don't help him Sawbones! Leave 'em for the Steelers to clean up."

It's not known if the boy's diminutive size and the two crutches he clasped while crossing the street might have allegedly led the driver to assume he was a handicapped man.

Taken to Allegheny General Hospital, "Tiny" Tim Crachit, 5, of London, Armstrong County, is listed in "critical" condition and suffers from several broken bones.

"But at least I'm not as bad off as poor Rodney Harrison," Crachit said. "Coach Bill is going to cut his ass next camp. But you know what they say -- 'Nice guys finish last.'"

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:21pm

I read about this in another article, and it noted that Bellichick's refusal to accept the Steelers' aid didn't prevent him from asking the Steelers medical staff for some crutches and medicine a little later.

Which further supports the arguement that the Steelers had better facilities and capabilities during the game, as well as the arguement that Bellichick is paranoid (and sort of a douche) when trying to wrest every single competetive advantage he possibly can.

Sort of like Jeff Fisher and his "All players are questionable" stance.

by ChicagoScott (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:01pm

I found it interesting that he didn't offer up any information on the extent of Harrison's injury at his Monday press conference. Belichick thinks he gets some advantage over his opponents by being so secretive.

Trust me on this one because I blew out those same 3 ligaments years ago. When I went to an orthopedic surgeon the next day, he examined my knee for no more than 1 minute & then told me that I had completely torn several ligaments & would need knee reconstruction surgery. You don't need to wait for MRI results when your knee explodes like that. The Patriots training staff knew how bad it was when they put him on the cart but Belichick doesn't offer up anything.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:35pm

This has brought up something I've long wondered -- why are there public injury reports at all? I know one of the long-running cynical answers is "because Vegas and bookies around the country want the info", but is that really it?

Now, I can certainly see why there should be injury reports -- it's good for the league and the union to keep track of injuries and for players to know if particular stadiums/teams have unusually high or low injury rates. But those reports could be made directly to the league and to the NFLPA.

And before some reporter comes out with "because The Public Needs to Know(tm)!", keep in mind that's begging the question .

by GBS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:00pm

I believe the injury reports are entirely about Vegas, but it's not meant to encourage gambling. The NFL realizes gambling on these games is inevitable and wants to make sure the injury info is as accurate as possible to discourage the gambling types from snooping around for "inside information."

by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 6:58pm

There was more information in today's paper, which Kibbles apparently read. (Link on my name.)

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:31pm

Hmm, seems like kind of a tempest in a teapot. Help was offered and refused, so what. I sure wouldn't complain if the positions were reversed.

I have one question for the insiders out there that's slightly off topic, triggered by the comment to the effect that "Light is the patient, he gets to decide": What kind of language is there in players contracts, typically, about what the rights and responsibilities of the player and team are with respect to medical attention for the player?

And I believe GBS is correct about the purpose of the injury reports with respect to gambling.

by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 9:08pm

Belichick didn't offer up information about Harrison's condition on Monday because NFL rules do not require an injury report until Wednesday or until a player's roster status changes (IR, waived, etc.).

Belichick's policy is to adhere to the precise letter of the injury reporting rules, no more, no less. If Tagliabue wants Belichick to provide an injury report on Monday, then he should change the rules.

I can't think of any reason why volunteering extra information about injuries benefits the Pats.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 9:04pm

"Now, I can certainly see why there should be injury reports – it’s good for the league and the union to keep track of injuries and for players to know if particular stadiums/teams have unusually high or low injury rates. But those reports could be made directly to the league and to the NFLPA."

Actually, the league has a different set of data to compare, a much more detailed form that includes such factors as weather, field conditions, equipment used, yada yada yada. It's there for possible litigation, the filing of Workers' Compensation forms and NFL internal studies on injuries.

It is not, however, shared with the union. And until very recently (after litigation) is wasn't even provided to the player who was the subject of the form.

The reason why the injury reports exist -- and they're vetted by reporters at Thursday practices -- is because of the GMs. They want to know what players they will face on Sunday so they can scrimmage prudently.

The nice thing about the Injury Report is that it's a great snapshot of overall health on a team, league or individual player. Most are written out NOT by the coach or GM, but by the team doctor and trainer, the people filling out the OSHA, BLS and Workers' Comp info at the same time.

"What kind of language is there in players contracts, typically, about what the rights and responsibilities of the player and team are with respect to medical attention for the player?"

The reports on a player's health typically would be made under the umbrella of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-191.

It's what laymen call "HIPAA." Normally, HIPAA would forbid the NFL from releasing any medical information about a worker's condition.

Because of the competitive aspects of football mentioned above, however, the 1993 CBA included language that allowed the NFL teams to mention briefly the medical ailment of a given athlete. More detailed information (the stuff that's so interesting in FO's "Black and Blue Report") can be uttered only with the approval of the player.

That's why it's so funny to see coaches with their terse "Ankle" or "Concussion" pronouncements. All the reporters have to do is go to the player in the locker room and ask him what's wrong. The vast majority will tell them.

The one thing they don't like to do -- if they plan on playing the next game -- is to precisely locate the limb that's damaged. That's because they don't want opposing players to focus on it in an attempt to take him out the game.

Yes, that does happen. It's routine and expected.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 9:21pm

Another important aspect of NFLPA bargaining many fans don't consider is the new right for players to get second opinions from qualified physicians outside of the team doctor.

For years, it was a requirement by the teams that only one opinion mattered, and that was the team's doctor's. This is no longer the case. Had the Pats told Light all he needed was a bit of nectar from the needle and he was good to go, he would've had to play on Sunday or forfeit his salary or void his contract.

The issue was always whether a team's medical personnel had a "conflict of interest" because they were employed by the club that wanted the athlete to play, even if it could cripple him later.

Do I believe most NFL docs would do that? Not at all. Nearly every NFL physician is a gifted, caring person who would never sacrifice a player's health for the sake of a win.

But in the past this wasn't always the case.

In a famous, all-too-candid remark,
Dr. Rob Huizenga, former team physician for the Los Angeles Raiders AND past president of the NFL Physicians Society, said that “if you didn’t play hurt, you risked going on Al Davis’s s@#t list."

Or, as they say in the NFL, "You can't make the club if your ass is in the tub."

Naturally, these sorts of conflicts of interest have ended up in court.

Take the case of Chuy v. Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, when the doc lied to reporters that a player on the team had a fatal disease. Chuy won.

How would you like that on an injury report: DYING.

Then there's the tragic story of Charlie Krueger. I spent an hour talking to Mr. Krueger last year.

When he played for the 49ers, he routinely received what everyone on the team called "Kepplemann treatments" -- injections of novocain and cortisone. He was never told that this treatment would implode his tendons, joints, cartilage, capillaries and blood vessels, making him a cripple later in life.

Pure fraud. It was a common practice.

The right to a second opinion got rid of a lot of that. A competent physician will inform a player about his real options. If he doesn't feel he got a straight answer, he can now go to another doctor and listen to his advice.

One of a GM's biggest headaches on Mondays is hearing players say they want second opinions. And guess what? The team doctors don't mind. They want the athlete to know exactly what his best options are.