I didn't write about this prior to the start of Patriots v. Colts because it seemed to needlessly distract from a game that is, quite literally, the closest thing to a playoff game that this league gets without it actually being in the playoffs. But, as we all saw this weekend, Austin Collie was cleared to play after being out of the lineup since the Eagles game. He was knocked out of the contest with the Patriots by the second quarter, and by the third we saw him hanging out on the sidelines in street clothes.
The initial injury diagnosis was 'concussion,' suggesting that Collie (despite being cleared to play) really had no business being out there. The Colts say they took him out of the game against the Pats for 'precautionary reasons.'
This comes on the heals of the Colts refusing to make Collie available to the media prior to the Pats v. Colts game. We did write a piece on this, coming to the defense of a seemingly frustrated Phil Wilson of the Indianapolis Star who, along with many other members of the media, was denied access to Collie. Instead of making Collie available for questions, the Colts and Collie issued a bizarre statement, which (when read) sounded more like Bill Polian's words than Collie's.
Well, on the Saturday prior to the 'War of 18-12,' the Indy Star's Mike Chappell boldly accused the Colts of violating NFL policies regarding players and media availability:
For a second straight day, the Colts did not make Collie available to the media, which is in violation of the NFL's access policy.
Gutsy statement for Chappell. More importantly, it was the correct one to make.
Per NFL rules, the Colts absolutely have to make Austin Collie available to the media. The rules state clearly [emphasis mine]:
Beginning no later than the week prior to the opening of the regular season through the playoffs, each club will open its locker room during the normal practice week (based on a Sunday game) on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to all accredited media for player interviews for a minimum of 45 minutes.
It is the club’s responsibility to deliver access to all players during this time period, and it is the player’s responsibility to cooperate. It should be noted that several clubs afford access to the media both before and after practice on a daily basis.
So, knowing these rules, why wasn't Collie made available?
I know some people here don't like it when we write about this kind of stuff, but like it or not it is important. The Colts are required, per the rules that they are always so quick to defend when teams like the Patriots violate them, to make players available to the media. And one of the reasons people like Phil Wilson wanted to talk to Austin Collie prior to this Sunday's game was to see if he felt OK. Remember Phil's article on the subject?
I don’t understand why he won’t talk about the play. Is this the team or him? I mean, we spend our lives chasing these guys around to talk about the plays they made and didn’t make. Why is this so different?
At the time, it didn't make much sense to not allow Collie to chat with media, and the thought was the team was preventing Austin from talking. Now, with Collie seemingly suffering more 'concussion-like' symptoms after getting whacked in the head by Patriots defenders, it is starting to look like the reason the Colts didn't make Collie available was maybe because they didn't want people to know he wasn't 100% ready to play.
If that isn't the reason, what is? If there is no reason, he should have been made available per league rules. If Collie simply did not want to talk to media, that is not a sufficient excuse. Talking to Phil Wilson for 45 minutes is a small price to pay to get paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living.
Regardless of the reason or reasons, rules are rules and the Star is boldly claiming that the Colts violated these rules. Current Titans receiver Randy Moss was fined $25,000 for violating the same policy earlier this year when he was with the Patriots. Players have a responsibility to make themselves available to the press and teams are required to assist in that process.
The open-access media policy has been in the news a lot of late, especially since reporter Ines Sainz was made to feel 'uncomfortable' in the Jets' locker room earlier this year. So, it's not like these rules are anything new.
For a club like the Colts, who sell the notion that they play and work 'the right way' to win football games, violating NFL polices and rules kind of flies in that face of what they use to pander to fans. It will be interesting to see if the league does anything about this. In the meantime, I think we can all collectively hope Austin is OK, and that he take all the time needed to heal up. Knees and elbows and joints can heal. When it's your brain, you don't mess with that. Heal up, kid.