Weeden's thumb is a touchy subject
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
9/14/10 at 10:48 AM
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STILLWATER - The first two weeks of the football season suggest Saturday night's Tulsa-Oklahoma State contest will be a duel of wide-open offenses. So if you're involved in a high-scoring shootout, you better have a triggerman who can lock and load as well as fire.
That's why OSU fans should be concerned that quarterback Brandon Weeden showed up for Monday's press conference sporting a splint on the thumb of his (right) throwing hand.
Rumors are rampant on OSU message boards about Weeden's condition. The junior jokingly played along with the speculation.
"I've got (surgery) scheduled for 6 o'clock, and I'm out for the year," he said.
Wait a minute, Cowboy Nation. It's not time to go into full-scale Poke panic attack. At least not yet.
As noted, a smiling Weeden was having some fun with the cyberspace angst when he termed it a "sprain." He fully intends to be in the lineup when OSU (2-0) hosts the Golden Hurricane (1-1) at 6 p.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium.
The 26-year-old former minor league baseball pitcher has waited too long to miss big-time opportunities like this week's in-state showdown.
"It (thumb) could be sticking way out here and I'm playing," Weeden said. "I only have so many chances to play college football. I have 10 games left this year and 12 or 13 next year.
"So even if it comes off, I'm going to fight through it no matter how bad it hurts."
According to Weeden's teammates, he's in more pain than he's letting on. Weeden was hurt in the third quarter of the season opener against Washington State when his hand hit an opponent's helmet as he was following through on a pass.
"You can tell (it hurts) when we're just walking around and you see his thumb," running back Kendall Hunter said. "But he's a good team leader; he doesn't show hurt or injury or anything like that."
Mike Gundy attempted to downplay the severity of the injury Monday. OSU's coach said people outside the program are "really making a bigger deal out of it than what it is.
"He's battling through some pain. But Keith Toston played five games last year with essentially a thumb that wasn't attached to his hand. He just taped it."
Apples and oranges, coach.
Toston was a running back with a healthy hand to aid the injured one while carrying the ball. Weeden's right hand has to be functioning well enough on its own to operate OSU's new "Air Raid," scheme, which depends heavily on the quarterback to throw a variety of passes.
While he doesn't say it, Gundy knows the injury is potentially a big deal, because Weeden is OSU's only dependable player at the game's most important position.
If Weeden is lost for a long period of time, the Cowboys' season is probably a lost cause. The inexperienced backup quarterbacks are a true freshman and redshirt freshman.
Weeden played through the pain in last Saturday's wild 41-38 win over Troy. He completed 29-of-39 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns, to wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
But he also had two passes intercepted and struggled at times holding onto the football.
An indication of the pain level came when Troy recovered a Weeden fumble in the game's final minute when he wasn't able to hold on to a simple snap from center Grant Garner.
After OSU's defense forced a fumble on the next play, Weeden took the game's last snap from the shotgun formation instead of under center. Gundy said Weeden would be in the shotgun against TU if OSU has the lead and goes to the "Victory formation."
"I looked at Grant (Garner) and we were both thinking that we're the first team in college football to ever take the Victory snap (in the shotgun)," Weeden said. "But I said, 'Hey, listen, my thumb really appreciates it.' "
That was close as Weeden came Monday to acknowledging any pain. He also conceded that it's important for a quarterback to show his teammates he's willing to play through injuries.
"I know they're hurting, and they try not to show it," he said. "So I've got to do the same thing."
The strong-armed Weeden demonstrated in the two wins that he has the touch and strength to throw every pass. He has a combined 51 completions in 69 attempts for 566 yards and five touchdowns.
TU will bring its own experienced gunslinger into the Cimarron Turnpike showdown. Junior G.J. Kinne, a second-year starter, has completed 55 of 90 passes for 755 yards and seven scores.
OSU ranks fourth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 53 points a game. The Hurricane's 41-point average is 21st among Division I-A teams.
"If it comes down to that," Weeden said of an offensive shootout, "we feel comfortable scoring points.
"I threw the ball decent against Troy. So hurt thumb or no thumb, it doesn't matter."
Ah, yes it does. Even a quarterback with a cannon for an arm still requires a thumb to grip the ball until he pulls the trigger.
OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden intends to play on Saturday despite wearing a splint on his throwing hand on Monday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World