With all the rumors swirling around Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, Sooner fans must have taken comfort today in the first solid bit of news they've heard about the star quarterback's bum shoulder in weeks.
"He's progressing and all of his rehab has been positive," OU coach Bob Stoops said during the Big 12's weekly teleconference when asked about the chances of Bradford playing against Miami on Saturday. "We just have to feel he's comfortable and healthy enough that he can make the throws he needs to make."
OK, fine: the reality is that observers know little more today about Bradford's prospects to start this weekend at Miami than we knew last week. When it comes to injuries, though, that's about as "solid" as you'll get from the Sooners' head coach.
Having followed Oklahoma football under Stoops for 11 years now, I've given up on trying to read the tea leaves in these situations. Idle speculation is worthless; Bradford will either be out on the field at Landshark Stadium on Saturday night or he won't.
Even if Bradford is healthy enough to give it a go, a better question is if he should play.
Obviously, having your All-American under center instead of still-unproven redshirt freshman Landry Jones sounds like the better option. Bradford put up arguably the best statistical season for a quarterback in college football history last year and boasts a 23-6 record as a starter at OU. The last time the Sooners and 'Canes met in 2007, Slingin' Sam strafed Miami's secondary for five touchdown passes in a 51-13 OU win.
Yet, for a player coming off a significant injury like the one Bradford suffered in the season opener against BYU, is it wise to throw him into the fire against a defense with the kind of athletes who will be taking the field for The U?
And what about shaking off the rust from his four-week layoff? Seeing as the closest thing to practicing that Bradford has done during that stretch is toss five- and 10-yard patterns, it's fair to assume there will be a period of readjustment. Although the degree of difficulty hasn't been what he'd face against Miami, Jones has given a fairly good account of himself in his two starts with Bradford out of commission. Is it possible that for this one game Jones actually gives the Sooners the best chance to win?
Then there's the bigger picture of the 2009 season. OU plays Texas in the Cotton Bowl two weeks from Saturday in a game that will put one of the bitter rivals in the Big 12 drivers seat. Say OU decides to hold Bradford out this week and then bring him back on October 10 at home versus Baylor. Would a tune-up game against the Bears be enough to get Bradford back in the groove for the Red River Shootout?
On its face, this is an easy call. Bradford is arguably the best quarterback in the country. If he can play and feels ready, put him in there.
Personally, I'm not so sure.