Let me start out by saying that I have great respect for Pitt coach Paul Chryst and the way he runs his program.
Smart guy. Friendly. Would love to buy him a beer and a brat someday, and just talk about football, his kids, my kids and life in general.
Works hard. Stand by his players. Doesn’t try to complicate the game with promises he can’t keep and an offense his players can’t run.
Then, there’s this: He knows more about developing quarterbacks than most people on earth, and that bodes well for a program that recently had a hard time recruiting good ones until Chad Voytik arrived this year.
But, geez, I really hate Chryst’s policy on talking about injuries. It’s very simple: Unless there is a surgery involved, he doesn’t do it.
The issue surfaced Thursday at Chryst’s final press briefing before the Youngstown State game. He said he won’t talk about injuries at all this season, because he doesn’t want to say something that may turn out to be inaccurate. He also doesn’t want to talk about his business in public.
“You spend a lot of time talking about things you don’t know,” Chryst said. “At times that seems like a waste of time. I don’t need to share things that other people don’t need to know.”
I get it.
Chryst has no interest in letting the Youngstown State coaches know whether or not running back Ray Graham will play Saturday.
Coaches love the element of surprise. If an opponent can go through its work week wondering who will be in the other team’s starting lineup, coaches believe that gives them an edge.
Reminds me of a day in 1995 when Steelers coach Bill Cowher asked reporters not to mention that Carnell Lake was practicing at cornerback until writing their Sunday stories. The idea was to keep Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin guessing.
But when the story appeared on the Channel 11’s 6 o’clock news Wednesday night, all bets were off. The story became public and, presumably, found its way into Coughlin’s office before the game.
And this was 15 years before Twitter!
Cowher believed that if Coughlin knew about Lake, he would prepare accordingly, and the Steelers would lose their edge.
The twist to the story is that the head’s up did Coughlin no good. Despite Channel 11 spilling Cowher’s secret, the Steelers beat the Jaguars, 24-7, won their next seven games and went to the Super Bowl.
All of which – I’m sure Chryst will tell me – has nothing to do with Pitt in 2012. True enough, but I did enjoy telling the story.
The truth of the matter is that Graham’s surgically repaired knee has been an ongoing issue for the past month.
Graham said he will play, but that was before the start of training camp. Later, he said he will be smart and unselfish about it, even though he desperately wants to play.
He practiced about half the time over the past four weeks, even taking a direct hit from a helmet one day and not suffering a setback.
But there were days when he did little more than watch, out of respect to the injury and allowing it to heal properly. For the most part, he wore a green jersey that told defenders to keep their hands off him.
Now, with the opener approaching, everyone wants to know if Graham will play. Chryst said Monday it will be a game-day decision. Thursday, he said nothing.
I might be wrong, but I find it difficult to believe that Chryst and Graham don’t know today — as you are reading this — what the decision will be.
If the knee is ready to support one of the most exciting running backs in college football, how can it possibly get weaker by Saturday?
Conversely, if it’s not strong enough, how can it get better in two days?
Chryst just wants to keep the news to himself. That’s his right. And I respect that.
If you really want to know, I guess you’ll have to buy a ticket, listen to Bill Hillgrove and Pat Bostick on the radio or tune your computer to ESPN3 at 6 p.m. Saturday.
By the way, Chryst didn’t ask me, but I think it’s crazy to play Graham in this game or next Thursday at Cincinnati. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to put him on the shelf for the entire month of September.
Pitt has plenty of good running backs, and the two behind Graham on the depth chart – Isaac Bennett and Rushel Shell – can certainly handle the workload.
Give the knee another month to heal and bring Graham back for the Syracuse game Oct. 5. That will be about three weeks shy of one year since Graham had his surgery. A reasonable period of recuperation.
Of course, if that’s what Pitt’s coach decides to do, don’t expect him to talk about it.