Roddy White, we were assured, would play against the Saints. Credible reporters dug into the injury and came away with this impression:
#Falcons WR Roddy White has a low-ankle sprain from Thur. Played in 128 straight games. Streak would continue if this were regular season— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 16, 2013
We had no reason to believe that Roddy would be less than 90% for the game, even if you account for a low ankle sprain lingering. I figured he'd be out there tearing the Saints a new one, same as always. I thought this because the team was so adamant, even though the Falcons under Mike Smith have a history of getting very cloak and dagger with their injury report.
Didn't happen. Roddy played limited, essentially as a decoy, and caught only two passes for 19 yards. After the team vehemently denied that he had a high ankle sprain for weeks, this was Roddy yesterday:
Asked twice if his injury was high ankle sprain, White said, "Yeah. It's hard to cut. It's hard to do just about everything at the position. No excuses. When you go out there, you try to win." White said he was also played more that he expected.
I get that gamesmanship with the injury report is part of life in the NFL. I know that many teams do it, and it's not just the Falcons who lie through their teeth about the severity of ankle sprains and thigh bruises. It's not cute any more, though, and the Falcons' insistence on playing games did more harm than good in this one.
Pretending Roddy was less injured didn't give them a competitive advantage, because a severely limited Roddy was easy to cover. Their dedication to throwing him out there in spite of the injury meant that the Falcons essentially were down a receiver much of the day, because White couldn't flash his trademark separation skills. He was a glorified decoy, and the Saints weren't fooled.
I'm not saying NFL teams should be transparent about injuries, but their insistence on letting the hyper-competitive White decide how many snaps he got did the offense no favors. The Saints could tell within a few snaps that Roddy wasn't a major threat, and they were able to adjust their coverage accordingly to try to slow down the always dangerous Julio Jones. All the Falcons really managed to accomplish here was annoying fans and media types and creating the risk of aggravating Roddy's ankle injury.
Roddy may still be limited going forward. If so, I hope the Falcons give him time to heal up that ankle, even if he insists on getting a handful of snaps to keep his streak alive. They need him at 100%, not 50% so they can try to play mind games with teams that aren't fooled in the first place.