Here we are again. Another Kirk Ferentz press conference, another week of bad news to report. We don’t have a gut-wrenching loss to talk about this time, rather a perhaps career-ending injury to a pivotal cog in the Iowa football machine.
Kirk dove right into the Matt VandeBerg news (not before mentioning Ron Coluzzi’s Big Ten special teams player of the week honors!) so we will too.
Matt VandeBerg got injured during practice Monday, so he's going to be out for a significant period of time here, and we'll just have to deal with that, and certainly disappointed for him. He's worked extremely hard, playing really well.
Anytime there's an injury, it affects that individual the most, and that's first and foremost in our minds, but as we all know, it's part of football, so it provides opportunity for other players, and they're going to have to step up and get the job done for us, and I'm sure they will.
Alright, that’s pretty cut-and-dry. Can we get some more information on the nature of the injury?
Well, it's football, first of all, and injuries are so unpredictable, other than the fact that injuries happen all the time in all sports, not just football. But I won't say a high majority, but it seems like a majority of injuries take place with non-contact type injuries, nothing dramatic, and that's just how it works. It's unfortunate.
Matt works hard all the time. He's one of those guys you have to pull back, and he's actually been fighting some injuries over the last couple weeks, but he's got a great attitude, been working hard, and this one is totally unrelated, but there are no guarantees. It's kind of like life. But the good news is he's got a great attitude. He was great this morning, and that's a starting point for any kind of recovery.
OH IS IT FOOTBALL? Sorry, but I think we’re all little sick of hearing that. That being said, it sounds like it was a non-contact injury, and those are just the worst (see: Bridgewater, Teddy).
There is some speculation, however, that VandeBerg may be granted a medical redshirt.
NEWS: Without commenting on specific case, B1G confirms that injured player w/ 4 games in 1st half of season qualifies for medical hardship.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) September 27, 2016
Ferentz mentioned they were planning on appealing to the NCAA to grant him one, and though recent memory tells us that the appeals process isn’t so kind to Iowa football players, the Hawkeyes have been the beneficiaries from the system in the past as well.
Q. You guys had that situation where Tony Moeaki played in his fourth game, in 2007 he played 12 games, but then again you didn't have success the last time?
KIRK FERENTZ: Your memory is better than mine on that one. I'm glad to hear that. Like I said, I haven't even thought about that yet, but we'll certainly appeal it. Our compliance people do a great job of presenting it. Typically things work to the player's advantage typically, so hopefully that would be the case here.
We haven't changed our offensive system, so I don't know if we can make that appeal, but we'll try to find out anything we can that might work to our advantage.
And this follow-up exchange just made me laugh:
Q. Never too late to change it.
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, that's true. We may have to now that we just lost a receiver. That may alter our attack a little bit.
“Oh, Kirk, never too late to change the offensive identity you’ve instilled on this program during your 17-year tenure at Iowa.” I could hear the snort from Chicago.
The presser was pretty standard for a few minutes until someone dropped this, and things took a melancholy, albeit existential turn:
Q. James Daniels was up here early and told a story about when he was recovering from knee injury, that he got some perspective when one of his buddies got shot and that he would rather recover from a knee injury than a gunshot wound, but when he says stuff like that, what does that say to you about his maturity and his perspective on life?
KIRK FERENTZ: A lot of our guys have spent time over at the children's hospital doing visits and meeting some of the patients there, and there's so many examples. We can all cry about things, geez, my coffee is too cold or it's not the right brand or whatever. We've all got a pretty good deal here, and it's like I alluded to starting out. I'd much rather be trying to get ready for a game, make a couple first downs or stop a couple as opposed to sandbagging. We've been through that here in this community, and there's so many things going on out there. I always try to remind our players all the time that we all do this, A, because we choose to, and secondly, because we're able to. We're pretty lucky.
We're playing games as opposed to some things that could be really serious. And I'm not minimizing injuries, so don't get me wrong, but in the big scheme of things, Matt is going to be just fine, and whenever he gets back, he'll be better than ever.
Ditto to everything he said.
Dylan talked a little bit about some Hawkeyes in the NFL sharing photos of care packages from Iowa, and Kirk elaborated on that a little. It’s pretty neat.
It's something we've done, this will be our 18th year I guess doing it -- well, not 18th, 17th, I guess. But it's just a way to let those guys know we're thinking about them, congratulate them on -- it's significant to make an NFL team or be on a practice squad. That's a really significant accomplishment. It's not the end-all, but just want to let them know, hey, we're thinking of them. They're still in the family, and it's something I think they appreciate, so it's a little thing.
But kind of a little bit like we got bowl watches for the seniors from 2000 because to me when we made it to that bowl in 2001, those guys were a big, big part of it, so we've done little things like that in the past just to thank them for helping us get pushing along a little bit.
He says they’ve been doing it since he’s been around but this is the first time I’ve noticed. Maybe Christian Kirksey got the party started and it snowballed from there on social media.
This was another vintage Kirk line:
Q. Did you find out if anyone had the authority to fine you for the comments last week?
KIRK FERENTZ: I haven't heard a word, so I'll keep my fingers crossed. I don't want my wife mad at me. Not that that would ever happen.
I’m sure they’re referring to his simply pointing out of the blatantly incorrect illegal blocking call on Daniels’ run against Rutgers, and fining him for pointing out the officials really shit the bed on that one would not be great form I suppose.
And finally, we have more dialogue about protests and players kneeling during the National Anthem. We saw some Nebraska players do it this past week and elaborate on their actions, and I think these are some strong, measured responses from Ferentz here:
Q. One thing this week in the Big Ten that really kind of landed was the protests. I know we talked about that earlier. Have you built in a protocol for dialogue?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I actually coincidentally talked to our leadership group about that on Sunday. I wanted to make sure we were all together, how did they feel, and I think the guys -- I think we're all together. Just, again, my personal -- and this is my personal feeling, it's not a mandate, but to me when we're involved in a team activity, we do things the same. We'll dress the same on game day, players dress one way, coaches dress the other, but we're all uniform, we're all together, just like the swarm. That's what that's all about.
But when we walk out of this building, as long as guys are lawful, moral and all those kinds of things, that's life. Everybody has got opinions about things, religiously, politics, all that stuff, and I'm all for that, and especially for college guys. You're thinking about stuff, and that's all good. I'm all for it. That's part of growing up, and that never ends quite frankly.
But when we're doing this, we've got to be together, and that's just -- I don't know if that's old school, new school, whatever, but to me that's how team activities ought to be, and then we've all got to be respectful of each other and our personal lifestyles, our preferences, all that kind of stuff, and that's one of the beauties of football in my opinion. You've got 100 plus guys, plus a bunch of adults running around here, but we're all kind of together on one thing, one area, and then when we walk out, hey, we're all different, and that's good. That's healthy.
Q. Is it kind of surprising to you that watching people, what they do during the anthem is now a thing?
KIRK FERENTZ: No, I mean, surprise is a strong word for me. I don't get surprised by much anymore. But that's one of the great beauties of our country, I think. I grew up -- my brother was in the Vietnam -- all the crazy stuff that was going on in the '60s, Woodstock, all that stuff. I was kind of right after that a little bit, so I got to watch it out without being in the -- but that's why we've got the greatest country in the world. Expression is a good thing. It's healthy. But there's also boundaries, I think, for everything, and again, we all volunteered for this as I said a minute ago. We all volunteered for this activity, so we're all hopefully on the same page that way.
The thought of Ferentz at Woodstock brings a smile to my face. Again, I would be more curious to know coach Doyle’s thoughts on players kneeling for the national anthem, but I really doubt we see an Iowa player partake in such an action this year.
-Jonathan Parker was back to practicing this week. Ferentz said he expects to work him into the passing game along with more reps for Jay Scheel. He stopped just short of saying Ronald Nash will see significant playing time. He also said he doesn’t expect to burn any redshirts at the position, mentioning that Adrian Falconer has been injured and out of practice for some time.
-Derrick Mitchell is also back to practicing full-speed. Ferentz made certain to emphasize he was seeing reps at running back, and running back only.
-Jon Wisnieski is back to practicing, too. Though it doesn’t sound like he’ll see the field this week, or even the near future.