Houston Texans: Who Is to Blame for Not Uncovering Ed Reed's Injury?

Jeffery Roy@Jeff_n_WestburyContributor IIIMay 18, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20:  Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a play late in the game against the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on January 20, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The top story for the Houston Texans over the last 48 hours has been the history of Ed Reed’s hip injury. John McClain, Texans beat writer for the Houston Chronicle, first made it known to the world: 

Last week, FS Ed Reed underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a small labral tear in his hip. He's expected to be ready for training camp.

— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) May 3, 2013

The story took a different turn when Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tried to connect the dots using an interview given by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenneth R. First on Sports Radio 610 in Houston. During the interview, Dr. First said:

“I wouldn’t be shocked if the (Baltimore) Ravens knew he had a hip problem as he went through the season last year. . . .  You don’t tear your labrum just walking around. You know there’s something wrong.” (CBS Houston

Florio titled his article Ravens suspected Reed had hip problem, Texans apparently didn’t.” This is a prodigious leap in judgment. It presumes the Ravens had prior knowledge of the injury, and the Texans were unaware of it when they signed Reed to a three-year, $15 million contract. And all of that is based on what a doctor speculated using his medical experience. 

It is entirely possible Ozzie Newsome, the GM of the Ravens, did not want to re-sign Reed knowing that he had a problem with his hip. The free safety missed the first seven games of 2010 with a similar problem that required extensive surgery

But according to Dr. First, this previous surgery was “on his other hip,” not the one that required the more recent arthroscopic procedure. This rather significant detail went unreported by Mr. Florio, and has been incorrectly identified as the same hip elsewhere. 

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who has a history of withholding injury information, has said, "There's no credence on the injury report now."  The only body part that reportedly gave Reed any problems in 2012 was his shoulder. Given the habitual lack of full disclosure by the free agent’s former employer, should the Texans have been more wary? 

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You would think a player who will be 35 once the season starts would receive a thorough examination before being offered a contract. For the sake of argument, let us assume he was completely checked out in every reasonable way. The labral tear must have gone unnoticed. 

This is fully consistent with the comments Dr. First made in his interview:

“You cannot see the labrum on a regular x-ray. The bottom line is, unless a player alerts you to ‘I have a hip problem,’ you’re probably not going to get this unless you do a very sophisticated MRI of every part of the body and really look for this.” 

Does this make it the player’s responsibility to notify the team he might have such a problem? Or is it a case of caveat emptor: “Let the buyer beware?” 

The Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified by the NFLPA in 2011 has several sections that place the burden on the player. The most applicable is under Article 44, Injury Grievance. In Section 3 (a) (2), one of the grounds for denial of a grievance is “That the player failed to make full and complete disclosure of his known physical or mental condition when questioned during a physical examination by the Club.” 

Under this protection, the Texans could conceivably release Reed from his contract due to the injury. The club might even recoup the deferred portion of his signing bonus. This is unlikely to happen, and any recent cases where this has occurred have been difficult to identify. 

In all probability, the former Raven will be on the roster of the 2013 Houston Texans—although it may take four to six months to recover from the surgery, according to Dr. First.  

If Reed is not on the field when the regular season begins, it will take somewhat longer for the fans and management of the team to forget the embarrassment surrounding his acquisition, even if the circumstances were unavoidable.

Updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2:15 pm  

Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports reports the NFL is in the process of instituting a pilot program where eight teams will participate in an "electronic medical records" (EMR) program. The Ed Reed injury situation is referred to as a primary reason why this system satisfies a clear need for teams to share accurate medical information.  

Cole also point outs a $1.2 million injury grievance filed by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Artis Hicks that involves the very issue covered in the above article. The Dolphins contend Hicks failed to disclose a neck hernia that occurred while he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings in 2006.

It led to his release on Sept. 25, 2012 after initially being placed on injured reserve (IR) at the start of the 2012 regular season. The $1.2 million under dispute would have been the salary payable to Hicks if he had remained on IR for the season. 

The injury grievance is still under evaluation by the league as of this date, but may take up to 18 months to resolve after submission. 

Salary figure provided by Spotrac.com.