Jake Locker’s bruised ribs and aching thighs bring long-term concerns into Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling.
There was no extra padding around Jake Locker’s banged up ribs last Saturday. Just the standard flak jacket that comes with the hazards of being quarterback.
But Steve Sarkisian was in restraints. Locker continues to take a beating despite his tendency this season more than previous to run out of bounds or not lower his shoulder. His injuries shackled the play book.
So-called insiders, also known as Friends of the Program, said Locker has a broken rib. Sarkisian said Locker does not. The Washington quarterback said he was about 90 percent last Saturday and pain-free when throwing. It was the running part, one of the most crucial aspects of Washington’s offense, that was limited.
Along with the throbbing ribs, Locker has a deep thigh contusion. He is also surrounded by an under-achieving team. That doesn’t help.
Postgame Saturday Sarkisian lamented the abridged play book tat was a result of Locker’s reduced mobility. The coach didn’t call a single play for Locker to run in up the middle. Sarkisian explained he couldn’t bring himself to put Locker’s body in further danger despite the benefits it would have brought to schemes.
“As much as I am a play-caller, I’m the head coach of all these guys not just Jake Locker,” Sarkisian said. “These are my kids. These are my guys. I love everything they give us. I love the fact that they come to work every day. But ultimately as much as I want them to perform and to play well, I want them to be healthy.
“I want to make sure I don’t expose them to things that could further injure them. I wasn’t going to do that with Jake. I wasn’t going to put him out there and run him in between the tackles and take hits he didn’t need to take. That’s not the reason we lost the game.”
The reason, of course, was the Swiss-cheese sponsored defense.
Sarkisian isn’t the first Washington coach to wonder about endangerment of his quarterback. Former offensive coordinator Tim Lappano sat visibly concerned about continuing the connection between Ronnie Fouch’s body and his head in 2008.
Fouch was shoved into action following Locker’s thumb injury. If Locker was a Ferrari, Fouch was a Ford Fiesta. Fouch was blasted the first three plays of his first start. It seemed unlikely he would last the game.
“We have to do something to protect Ronnie,” Lappano said a couple weeks later.
Lappano threw out all the read options Washington built around a healthy Locker. He tucked in extra protection by bringing out a second tight end or having two blockers in the backfield. The on-field results were atrocious, but Fouch came out intact.
Locker’s time in practice the past two weeks has been limited. He says it did not affect what he saw on Saturday and the tape would support that. He missed three throws, and admitted as such on Monday, but he was going to the right place.
Without his mobility against a ferocious Stanford crew, Sarkisian will again have to devise a way for his quarterback to survive and determine how desperate he is to win in what has become a lost season. The offensive line is doing little to protect Locker’s longevity. At least the coach can help him out.