Jim Harbaugh clarifies 'offensive' report about Rashan Gary

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Rashan Gary

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, during a radio appearance Wednesday morning, echoed what his players have said this week that starting defensive end Rashan Gary has been working as hard as possible to rehab a shoulder injury so he can return to the field this season.

Gary, a junior who has been a fixture on the Wolverines’ defensive line, has missed the last three games with an injury to the AC joint in his right shoulder. As fifth-ranked Michigan prepares to face No. 14 Penn State on Saturday, the status of Gary, an All-Big Ten first-team selection last season, is still unclear.

“He’s working. Very hopeful,” Harbaugh said on 97.1 The Ticket’s “Jamie and Stoney” show Wednesday. “People say what they say and sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all, but he’s doing his very best to get back out on the field. But we’re not playing anybody who’s injured, and we’re not playing anybody that doesn’t feel like they’re able to go out there and play, so it’s really that simple. He’s working hard to get back out there.”

More: Michigan still burns over Penn State attempt to run up score

Harbaugh said a “media miscommunication” triggered Gary’s mother, Jennifer Coney-Sheperd, to recently share on social media some insight into her son’s recovery.

“I was asked the question, ‘Why didn’t Rashan play in the Michigan State game,’ and I said, ‘He didn’t feel like he could play,’ and then somebody in the media quoted that as, ‘Rashan didn’t feel like playing,’” Harbaugh said. “I mean, that’s a big difference. Huge difference. It was offensive to what I said and also offensive to Rashan, and Rashan’s mom, Jennifer, took it that way, and rightfully so. He’s doing his very best to get back out there.”

Jennifer Coney-Shepherd, who shared her feelings about her son on “The Winged Helmet” page on Facebook, said Gary will not play until he is fully healed.

“Until he is fully recovered,” she wrote. “Now that you know ... there’s no need for rumor or speculation.”

Harbaugh was also asked on the radio show if it should be assumed receiver Tarik Black, who was in uniform for the Michigan State for the first time since breaking his right foot a week before the season – he was in for one play before a timeout but did not return to the field – will make more of a contribution beginning with the Penn State game.

“I would assume that,” Harbaugh said. “He’s practicing and doing well. Trying to get him back going again for sure. He’s doing a really good job.”

Other highlights from Harbaugh’s appearance on the “Jamie and Stoney” show:

Harbaugh was asked if he expects the reaction to Fab Five member Chris Webber’s appearance as honorary captain will be positive: “Loyal Michigan fans that write and I hear from are excited about it. That’s the reaction I would expect.”

On whether the loss to Penn State last year, that eats at defensive coordinator Don Brown, will be used as motivation: “Yeah, I think you’ve heard people talk about it. That motivates them. Our approach has been one game at a time, it really has. We feel like that is what it’s needed to be because every team on our schedule -- (they are) very, very good teams that we play, very good programs. This week, no exception. Penn State is an excellent football team in all phases. Their record reflects that. They’ve played a lot of big games, a lot of tough teams, and they’ve played really well. It will be a battle. They’re a highly-ranked team. It’s a big game, again, with playoff implications. Plenty of motivation for the club, as it is every week.”

On Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley being similar: “Both really good players, similar type of players in that they’re very good and efficient throwing the ball. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, Shea doesn’t, McSorley doesn’t. They have the big-play ability whether it’s through the pass or the run.”

Harbaugh was asked about the team’s chemistry. Is that manufactured by coaches or is this just a group of good guys? “I think the latter. When a team comes together and really enjoys each other’s company and likes each other, likes playing ball, likes being on a ball team together. That usually happens 'au naturel.' Not something the coaching staff generates.”

On Tom Brady still playing in the NFL at a high level at 41 years old: “He’s the best that’s ever played the game and it’s not even close. He’s lapped the field at this point. What more can you say? He’s the best who’s ever played. I think of some of the greats that ever played the game in their sport, and they played a long time. Gordie Howe played a long time. Willie Mays, Babe Ruth. The greats have a lasting presence.”

On how he dressed as a kid for Halloween: “I can remember being a ghost. The sheet, eyes cut out. I always wanted a boxed costume. I always wanted a Spider-Man, one like the other kids had that was just out of the box, but never had one. It was always some kind of homemade outfit. We just didn’t spend money on things like that. We didn’t buy school pictures. We didn’t buy Halloween boxed costumes. You made your own. It would have been a real luxury to get a boxed Halloween costume. Didn’t mean you didn’t want one, but could not bring yourself to do it.  My wife (Sarah) is so into Halloween. She’s so into the costumes. She’s really into the holiday, she’s really into making the costumes. She’s very elaborate. She loves all that kind of decoration but especially the costume. You can’t even tell who she is. She likes dressing up. She takes pride in herself coming up with a great costume and the kids coming up with great costumes.”

What does she think of people who dress as Harbaugh? “I think she’s amused by that. I love it. I’m going to make a board this year of all the kids that dress up as me for Halloween. … I just think it’s really cool.”