Well, this one came out of left field, but because Chris Mortensen is so well-respected and highly decorated as a journalist, it demands repeating here: The ESPN information man just reported Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter is not playing against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night.
Or "anytime soon," for that matter.
"The bottom line is I wouldn't expect to see Joey Porter anytime soon, certainly not Thursday night against the Panthers, although that's a coach's decison," Mortensen said on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown show.
And there you have it, except I have a hard time buying it.
I could understand if Porter is not expected to start. I could understand if Porter is not expected to get a majority of the snaps. But not play? And not for the foreseeable future?
I call Bovine Stool on this report.
I know Mortensen is pals with Bill Parcells because the two worked together at ESPN. I assume as everyone else does that Mortensen gets information from Parcells. And I can see how Parcells, a no-nonsense type guy with little regard for trash talkers that bark loudly but don't bite on game day, might be sick of Porter's big mouth act.
But shelve Porter indefinitely?
It would make better sense for the Dolphins to simply cut Porter. And I believe that will happen before the 2010 season begins. But just put the guy on ice?
I believe Porter is expected and will play Thursday against the Panthers. I have not been told anything one way or the other. But instinct forces me to believe the Dolphins won't shelve Porter while, for example, Quentin Moses is active for the game.
Nothing against Moses, but a player like Porter does not fall from grace so fast and with such a mighty thud as to be a starter against New England one week and then you don't hear from him again "anytime soon," thereafter.
Now, if Porter were injured, I would understand the possibility of not playing him. But Mort's report did not mention injury, and in fact, made the case that Porter is out because both Charlie Anderson and Cameron Wake were outstanding against Tampa Bay.
Porter also practiced Monday, was not on the injury report, and said during his talk to reporters that he is healthy. “I’m good man. I’m ready to go," Porter said. "I’m healthy. I’m ready to play."
Porter, by the way, expects to play against Carolina. He said he was getting ready for Carolina at least twice during Monday's interview. So if he's about to get shelved, he wasn't aware of it Monday.
Another reason I have trouble with the report is what Sparano said Monday, which I reported in the previous post. Yes, there is a rotation set now for the outside linebacker corps. That rotation was set prior to the Tampa Bay game and will continue for the Panthers game.
But Porter is expected to be part of that rotation rather than be excluded from it.
“I will be honest with you and I might have mentioned this after the game, but our plan going in was to have a rotation and we will continue to have a rotation and get as many of these guys in the game that we can get into the game," Sparano said. "I think [Cameron Wake and Charlie Anderson] were both productive yesterday so there is no reason for them not to get into the game and play.”
Nowhere in that is a hint that Porter will be left out in the cold. Furthermore, Sparano's almost enthusiastic defense of Porter against what he said was a media "hunt," suggested the coach plans to continue using Porter.
Even the suggestion that Porter has lost some explosion while his sacks have gone from 17.5 last year to 2.5 so far this year, seemed to vex Sparano.
“That’s your opinion," he retorted. "I think that you’re entitled to your opinion, but I think that for what we’ve asked Joey to do right now in the games that Joey’s been out there and been healthy, I’ve seen some of those things happen.
"Sometimes they just don’t go your way. It’s like when you guys sit here, and you say to me, ‘How come the receivers aren’t catching the ball?, How come the tight ends, coach, aren’t getting this, that, and the other thing?’ We want to talk about tight ends today? I think that those things, the opportunities are what the opportunities are. There was a ballgame a couple weeks ago, Joey was playing in, and if you start counting front side runs to backside runs, Joey was on the backside of a lot of those plays, an awful lot.”
So where does this all leave us?
If Porter does not play, it obviously signals the end of the relationship between him and the Dolphins much earlier than anyone expected -- that being by the start of 2010. It would mean the Dolphins have grown tired of his big mouth and diminishing statistics.
Simply, it would be hard for Miami to shelve Porter indefinitely without some backlash from the player. Porter wouldn't take it calmly, trust me. And, frankly, Porter would have something of a right to be angry if the report is true because it would mean the club was laying out its plans for him to a media outlet before telling him. Porter might have heard of Miami's plans on ESPN rather than from a coach that he likes and admires.
That would not sit well with him. He could get ugly about the whole situation. So the Dolphins would almost be forced to cut ties to avoid any drama. In that regard, the bigger story would be Dolphins getting ready to cut Porter.
So we are at a crossroads.
You either have a report that is wrong if Porter plays Thursday. Or you have an accurate report and a head coach who, in his zeal to defend an embattled player, crossed the line from defense to outright deception about that player -- defending him to the media while dumping him otherwise.
That's not how I believe Tony Sparano operates. He might not tell the media everything. But he's not a deceptive type of guy. And he doesn't mince words with his players. If Porter weren't going to play, he would hear that from Sparano, not on ESPN.
So I choose to believe the coach at the moment. I choose to believe Porter will play.
We shall see.