If he wants, Kentucky running back Derrick Locke can return to the football field this weekend.
After missing three games with a shoulder injury that was originally believed to be a stinger, Locke has been cleared by UK’s medical staff to play on Saturday. He made it through practice yesterday. And Joker Phillips is giving him the final say regarding his possible return.
“It’s up to him whether he feels like he can protect himself,” Phillips said in The Lexington Herald-Leader. “He’s been cleared by the doctors. He just doesn’t have the strength. If he feels like he has the strength to protect himself, he’ll go.”
Phillips won’t consider resting Locke against Charleston Sourthern in order to make sure he’s available against Vanderbilt next week.
“If he can play, we’ve got to play Derrick Locke. What are we going to save him for? There’s no need to save him. This is a game we’ve got to win.”
Okay. Fine. Locke made it through non-contract drills in practice yesterday. The Wildcats need to beat Charleston Southern on Saturday. I get it. And doctors have cleared UK’s running back, too.
But earlier this week, Phillips said that Locke was still dealing with fatigue problems in his injured shoulder. He had trouble gripping the football the more he used his arm. Last week, Phillips revealed that Locke had lost feeling in his arm. “It’s not just a stinger,” Phillips said. “He hasn’t had any feeling back in three weeks, so it’s a little bit more than a stinger.”
Now maybe I’m just being a little namby-pamby on this one, but when you’re talking about nerve damage — and that’s what a run o’ the mill stinger is — Phillips might want to err on the side of caution. For his player’s sake. And this was not your average stinger, either.
After going three weeks without feeling in his arm, Locke should be held out for one more game. Not even team doctors know how his shoulder will respond when Locke collides with another player. Why not let that shoulder strengthen for another full week before putting him on the field?
The player — as players do — will likely try to give it a go on Saturday. Therefore Phillips should take the decision out of the player’s hands. UK’s coach should make it clear to everyone that he puts his players’ long-term health ahead of wins and losses.