LAWRENCE, Kan. — It does Bob Stoops no good to give us a full-blown injury report each week. It's in the Oklahoma coach's best interest to provide as little detail as possible about how his players are feeling in regard to their various bumps, bruises and ailments.
Why give opponents that info and ammo, right?
Here's the rub: It's one of the things fans are most concerned about. I'll bet I receive as many emails and tweets about injuries each week than any other subject. Just got another email, actually.
So, an important function of my job is providing an accurate – or accurate-as-possible – injury report during games and then between them. There's an insatiable hunger for it.
And that's where Stoops is not cooperating. He sometimes bristles at injury questions, threatening to not speak with us if that's our line of questioning. Stoops has told us a couple of times that he would update player conditions on Thursdays — a day when he does not make himself available for interviews.
Then there's the nature of what we're told. Stoops has told us each of the past three weeks that “everyone is OK” or none of the conditions is “serious.”
Then we show up each week to see who is actually going to play and who is not. It'd be something if the college game could match the NFL and go to the probable-questionable-doubtful-out system, but I'm sure there are privacy rules preventing that where college kids are concerned.
Brennan Clay is a good example of this Sooners smog screen. He bangs up his shoulder against Ball State. Looks like a stinger.
We're told after the game it's not serious and he should play against Texas. We follow up in the days preceding the Texas game. I specifically recall Stoops saying everyone who played against Ball State would be available against Texas.
Then Clay, who had started the first four games a running back, does not play against the Longhorns.
We then ask about Clay in advance of the Kansas game. Same thing. Everyone's fine. Saturday arrives, and Clay dresses but does not play. Doesn't seem like a depth-chart deal; a teammate said Clay's shoulder was still bothering him.
He tweeted after the game this week will be his “comeback week.” Does that mean this timetable was set all along for an issue we were told would cost him no games?
Late Saturday night, after the 30-point win at Kansas, we're again told everyone is fine — even though no fewer than a half-dozen players left the game with something or another. Included: running back Roy Finch, defensive tackle Casey Walker, linebackers Corey Nelson and Tom Wort.
Then, Sunday morning, on the ride home from the Wheatland, I see a tweet from Nelson saying he’s having an X-ray exam on his arm and is hoping for the best. (He later tweeted nothing was broken, but he had ligament damage. He is expected to play through the injury.)
And how about linebacker Travis Lewis? We're told in the lead-up to Florida State that Lewis' injured foot will likely keep him out the following week against Missouri – and then he plays the entire game against FSU.
Is Stoops lying? No, not technically. There's enough wiggle room in the words “expect” and “we'll see” to excuse him via semantics. But it's less than genuine, the tone we're being dealt — which, in turn, creates the distorted version of reality that you read on Web pages and in newspapers.
If Stoops does not want to tell us everything he knows, that's fine. Don't blame him. But the message often being delivered is downright misleading.
Want to know how the Sooners are feeling? Like those of us around the program on a daily basis, show up to a game and find out and stay tuned in to the players' Twitter accounts.