Bad Information on NFL Injuries
After Week 1, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Giants quarterback Eli Manning would miss a month. He stuck with the report even after the Giants denied it. Manning has started every game. ESPN also got a report wrong this week on Manning's teammate, running back Derrick Ward, and its reporting this week on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith also overstated the seriousness of his shoulder injury.
ESPN isn't the only news source to get injury information wrong, just the most prominent. So what's going on here? Are teams intentionally feeding misinformation to certain members of the media in an attempt to keep their opponents from knowing how to prepare?
That would be a good conspiracy theory, but it doesn't really hold up to scrutiny: After all, in most cases, inaccurate injury reports are attributed to unnamed sources, and it's the teams themselves that come forward to debunk the reports. If the Giants had wanted to, they could have listed Manning as doubtful for Week 2, never denied Mortensen's report, and then claimed on game day that he miraculously woke up feeling fine. They didn't do that.
I think it has more to do with something ESPN's ombudsman said to Awful Announcing this week: ESPN is desperate to break news and be first, and that's hard to do without relying on information that in the past would have been brushed off as "just a rumor." I don't have a problem with passing along rumors as long as they're clearly labeled as such, but I do think injuries are complicated, and ESPN and other media outlets would be wise to run their reporting by an expert in sports medicine before going on the air with them. That would probably require more time and lessen ESPN's chances of being first. But it would also lessen ESPN's chances of being wrong.