Is it arthritis? It is tendonitis? Nobody knows. Not Tom Cable. Not the training staff. Not even Rolando McClain himself knows the exact nature of the foot injury that kept him out of action in Jacksonville last Sunday.
On the surface, it might appear to be your typical gamesmanship expected from the Oakland Raiders organization. An organization where information is more controlled than North Korea. An organization that has already seen its marquee player (Darren McFadden) seek medical counsel from the outside. An organization that is either honestly confused or is in serious trouble as the young anchor of the defense might have a problem going forward.
For now, let’s forget about the distant future and what effect this mystery injury could have on McClain’s career. Instead, let’s look at the immediate future – namely this coming Sunday and Oakland’s playoff push.
In recent weeks, McClain was slowly developing into the playmaking man in the middle Al Davis envisioned when they drafted Rolando. He registered his first career interception against Miami and played a dominant game against San Diego. But when the Raiders needed Rolando most – in Jacksonville – he was out of action.
In McClain’s place was Ricky Brown. While Brown has certainly gotten the most of his talents, his shortcomings were obvious last week. Not saying it would have been a win had Rolando played but things would have been different.
While the Denver Broncos aren’t the challenge on paper the Jaguars were they are traditional rivals with nothing to play for but pride. All year long Coach Cable has been winning with a patchwork squad. Every Sunday there is another list of injured Raiders and every time Cable is forced to make tough decisions. Some of his replacements (Jacoby Ford) have been brilliant. Others (Walter McFadden) were moments of madness.
With a hopefully healthy and long career ahead, it would be foolish to force McClain into action with so little seemingly known of his injury. But with the playoffs a possibility and jobs on the line, it could be suicidal to play the biggest games of the season without the best possible players.
Yes, an injured McClain is probably no better than a healthy Brown. This is the nature of the beast in pro football. Let’s just hope the training staff has a clue. After all, you can’t rehab an injury when don’t know what the injury is in the first place.