Earlier this week at his post-practice press conference, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked a simple question about Owen Daniels and where he's at physically at this time.
The question, from Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec, in its entirety: "John, how beneficial do you feel like the approach was with Owen Daniels the last couple of weeks, and what kind of form is he in?"
As you remember, Daniels missed a great deal of time due to what was described by the team as leg soreness. There were no pulls, tears, tweaks or damage. Just soreness. Sure, this could have been residual effects from the broken leg he suffered a year ago. But still — leg soreness. Come on. This is the NFL for crying out loud.
Given Harbaugh's old-school approach to the game, it probably didn't sit well, whether he wants to admit it publicly or not.
Anyway, on to Harbaugh's answer on how the team used Daniels. If the organization was pleased with how it handled the situation, an answer of, "Yes, our training staff did a great job making sure Daniels is ready to go on Sept. 7" would have been appropriate.
"I'm not going to comment on any guys where they stand health-wise or anything like that. I could tell you that all the guys were out there practicing; they all look good. That's where we're at."
We know Harbaugh doesn't like to comment on injuries. 99.9 percent of all football coaches at the college and pro level don't want to talk about injuries. But this was about as harmless of a question as it gets. The presumptive part of the question was that the Ravens took the right approach with Daniels this preseason, which would allow Harbaugh to pat himself and the training staff on the back for getting the offseason acquisition healthy for the season.
It's easy to speculate, from this point, that more is going on behind the scenes with the coaching staff and Daniels. Is it fair to speculate? Probably not since it really never is. But how can you not? From the outside, it seems odd that a coach would dismiss that kind of question. It wasn't a bad question (it was quite good and needed to be asked based on how the preseason went for the veteran tight end). It also wasn't an uncomfortable question for Harbaugh to answer. He just chose not to.
This isn't meant to go after Harbaugh for dodging a question. Not in the slightest. Harbaugh's not going to intentionally say something to throw a player under the bus. But it does raise the question as to where Daniels stands with Harbaugh at this time.
If I'm a coach and I see guys practicing in the summer heat while dealing with minor injuries, I don't see why Daniels can't do the same. That could be an issue down the road and something to watch. A lot will depend on whether Daniels actually continues to deal with this leg soreness. Is he at risk of missing practice time and games? Or does he now have a clean bill of health and is ready to go? It sure seems like either Harbaugh is dissatisfied with Daniels' explanation of the injury or that Daniels actually has something Harbaugh doesn't want to talk about. But for the record, Daniels didn't show up on Wednesday's injury report, which should indicate that he's good to go at this time.
This brings me to this point: Crockett Gillmore was able to get plenty of time with the first team this preseason. Gillmore isn't a speedy tight end, but he does have a big catch radius. He's also already showed tenacity as a blocker. Don't be surprised if Gillmore gets some looks as the No. 2 tight end early this year. We all know what Daniels can do as a tight end when healthy, especially as a receiving option. But it's not Harbaugh's style to forgive and forget something like missing practice over something he described as leg soreness.