Eagles' Chip Kelly: Don't ask me about injuries

"I don't ask questions," Chip Kelly said. "They just tell me who is going and who is not going."
"I don't ask questions," Chip Kelly said. "They just tell me who is going and who is not going." (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: May 30, 2013

[ Clears throat] . . . "Injuries . . ."

Andy Reid opened most of his Eagles news conferences with the above intro, and after 14 years it became a part of the local lexicon and fodder for sports radio.

It could be maddening at times, especially after a particularly difficult loss, but Reid's injury roll call served a purpose. He obviously wanted to control the message, and there were certainly times when he was less than forthcoming, but Reid's list kept speculation and error-prone reporting to a relative minimum.

Chip Kelly, if we're to glean anything from the first time he had to answer questions about an injury, wants the message to be this: Don't come to me looking for injury information.

"I don't ask questions," Kelly said Tuesday when asked if injury-prone Kenny Phillips' absence from practice was a setback. "They just tell me who is going and who is not going."

Kelly stands little chance of being sent to the Russian front for divulging details about the status of his players. But if his tenure at Oregon revealed anything, it is that Kelly slips into Sgt. Schultz mode when pressed for injury updates.

As of now, Kelly is under no obligation to report injuries. He won't be required to issue a daily update through the NFL office until the preseason starts. Even then, it could be difficult getting details on specific injuries - think Bill Belichick.

Some fans prefer as much ambiguity as possible, believing the lack of information would benefit the Eagles. Perhaps. But the vagueness can often lead to conjecture and contradictory information.

Ultimately, reporters want to get it right, and already there have been inconsistencies between what Eagles reporters were initially told and what later came to be.

Phillips, who has had surgery on both his knees, was not at practice Tuesday. Asked about his absence, Kelly said that Phillips was with the trainers. Asked if the safety was sidelined as a precaution because the Eagles practiced in a steady rain, the coach said, "It's got nothing to do with the weather."

Several hours later, though, Phillips told a team spokesman that he sat out for precautionary reasons.

Jason Peters did not miss Tuesday's practice because of injury, or at least that's what Kelly said. But he has not attended the last four workouts, dating back to May 20, according to the coach. But when Peters and several other Eagles missed the May 20 practice, the team said it was because of travel delays due to poor weather.

"We know where he is, and we know what's going on" was all Kelly would reveal Tuesday.

Peters likely decided to just skip organized team activities. They are optional. But the early misinformation and Kelly's nonanswer open up other possibilities. The Eagles cut Peters' salary in half last season, as was within their rights, because he ruptured his Achilles tendon away from the team's practice facility.

Did he opt to sit out the rest of the OTAs - Peters attended the first week - because of the $4 million lost last year? One league source said that it had nothing to do with the pay cut. Attempts to reach Peters were unsuccessful.

The Eagles confirmed three reported surgeries this offseason - on defensive end Trent Cole, guard Evan Mathis, and tight end James Casey - only after conferring with the players. Kelly may prefer that the injured speak for themselves.

If that is the case, it would be a step up from Belichick, who keeps his players from talking about their injuries.

"I'm not a doctor," Kelly said. But the Eagles do have them, including a head athletic trainer, on staff.

Reid often permitted trainer Rick Burkholder to answer questions about serious injuries, which is rare.

Reid, of course, revealed little else. Kelly has already been more expansive on topics pertaining to football than Reid ever was. He has yet to coach his first NFL game, however, or be asked his first question following a loss.

The coaches are different in many obvious ways, as Tuesday's soggy practice made clear. Reid would have never worked out in the rain. But if Kelly wins, as Reid did initially, his handling of injuries will be tolerated like his predecessor's stoic news conferences.

If not, Kelly's "I know nothing" routine will get very old.


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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