Ann Arbor — The furor regarding Michigan quarterback Shane Morris and his injury situation in the Wolverines' loss to Minnesota last Saturday night is growing.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke released a statement Sunday night regarding the safety of his players. This came not long after ABC News aired a piece on Morris and the apparent leg injury he suffered during the game and the fact he continued to play on it, not to mention the fact he took a hard hit that left him appearing wobbly.
It is unclear whether Morris suffered a concussion.
ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham during the broadcast of Michigan's 30-14 loss called the handling of Morris, who remained in the game even while clearly hurt, "atrocious."
"The safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority," Hoke said in a statement. "We generally never discuss the specifics of a student-athlete's medical care, but Shane Morris was removed from yesterday's game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest.
"He was evaluated by our experienced athletic trainers and team physicians, and we're confident proper medical decisions were made. The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition. The health and welfare of our student-athletes is and will continue to be a top priority."
There is no specific mention of whether Morris was examined for a concussion.
The spiraling Wolverines went to Morris as the starter as a way to spark an offense that had failed to reach the red zone in two previous losses. Gardner had been the starter since replacing an injured Denard Robinson late in the 2012 season.
But against Minnesota on Saturday, the offense was stagnant again. Eight of 12 drives lasted three plays or less and the Gophers outgained Michigan, 373-171.
The statistics, though, are not the main issue.
A fourth-quarter sequence involving Morris has drawn significant attention. Morris was already hobbling because of a left leg issue. Minnesota's Cameron Botticelli hit Morris in a drive that started with 12:50 left in the game, and Morris' left leg collapsed under him as he twisted to the field.
Two plays later, he took a hard helmet-to-chin hit from Theiren Cockran, who was penalized for roughing the passer. Morris clearly looked dazed after he got up from the field following the hit. He grabbed right tackle Ben Braden to steady himself and apparently waved off medical assistance or the idea of leaving the field.
He remained in the game and attempted another pass. Morris, wincing, then came off the field. After the game, he left the field on a cart.
ESPN analyst Cunningham was livid.
"It is appalling that he was left in on that play," Cunningham said during the television broadcast.
Gardner came into the game, but then had to leave the field after losing his helmet two plays later. Backup quarterback Russell Bellomy grabbed his helmet to go out on the field, but Morris was instead sent back in.
"This isn't good player management," Cunningham said. "This is atrocious to me."
Michigan has had neurologist Jeff Kutcher, director of Michigan Neurosport Program and associate professor in the U-M Department of Neurology, on the sideline for home and road games since 2012.
The protocol involves the athletic trainer attending to the player and then requesting the neurologist to examine the athlete. The neurologist can then make an assessment.
Attempts to reach Kutcher on Sunday were unsuccessful.
"He's the expert," Hoke told the New York Times last year referring to Kutcher. "For me to say I think a kid is all right may be a mistake. As the spotlight on concussions has grown, no doubt he's the one who has studied the effects, the trauma, the symptoms. That's his bailiwick, his expertise."
Hoke was asked after the game if Morris had suffered a concussion.
"I don't know if he might have had a concussion or not. I don't know that," Hoke said. "Shane's a pretty competitive, tough kid. Shane wanted to be the quarterback. If he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down."
Hoke was asked after the game if he had seen Morris wobble following that hit.
"I did not. I didn't see it," Hoke said. "I can only answer for me."
Center Jack Miller was asked if he noticed any issues with Morris after the hit.
"Apparently he was limping," Miller said. "He stayed in the game and wanted to stay in the game and wanted to keep fighting. (There was) nothing beside the limp."
Players often say there's a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. This looked clear-cut.
Michigan at Rutgers
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
Line: Rutgers by 2
Records: Michigan 2-3, 0-1 Big Ten; Rutgers 4-1, 0-1