John Brantley and his bad thumb.
Urban Meyer said following Saturday's loss to LSU that John Brantley had "damage" to his ribs and a sprained thumb. Brantley said something similar. This refuted a report by ESPN's Joe Schad that claimed Brantley had four cracked ribs and a broken bone in his thumb.
But, rather than give up on the story, Schad has stuck with it. Schad says Brantley has hairline fractures in four ribs and a small fracture in his thumb. In addition, Schad's source says due to Brantley's rib injury, the quarterback's mechanics were wrong and gave him shoulder pain from throwing the ball wrong. That shoulder pain was why Brantley couldn't throw Thursday or Friday.
There are a few non-football things to consider here. In terms of who you believe, we have the Gators (who are notoriously prickly and secretive with the media) and Schad's unnamed source (who gave more detailed information and cleared ESPN's editorial standards for acceptable unnamed sourcing). The Gators may also be physically protecting Brantley, in the way that hockey players get "lower-body injuries" when they have an ankle sprain, so opponents don't know how to target them. Schad's source seems to be feeding the information as a sort of, "Look what they've done to my boy!" and shaming the Gators into protecting Brantley more with better blocking packages and no quarterback options.
I would expect most fans to stick with the Gators on this. However, I have a suspicion that Schad's source is accurate. The information Schad has is too specific to be some random dude. Also, Schad seems to like Brantley a lot. I wouldn't expect him (or any ESPN reporter) to continue to run with a story unless it is accurate. You can rip ESPN for a lot of things, but their reporters are generally correct. Something else to consider is that former Gator Chris Doering said Saturday morning that Brantley wouldn't play at all.
Football wise, it puts the Gators in an awful position. Assuming it is just ribs and a bad thumb, Brantley won't be close to full strength for a while. Any sort of trunk injury will cause a throwing problem as the player rotates to throw. The thumb, if it is at the bottom of the hand, might be ok. Baseball catchers get that injury from foul tips glancing off the mitt, and can play with it.
Against LSU, Brantley was 16/24 for 154 yards, with almost all of his passes within 10 yards (average completion was 6.4 yards). If we're looking for more evidence that Brantley was significantly hurt, Brantley had one running play and there were very few option plays. Compare that to 16/32 passing for 202 yards (average 6.2 yards) against Alabama. He was also credited with seven rushes in that game. That means against Bama, he was willing to scramble if in trouble and run the option. Not so against LSU.
We'll have to wait for Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio's comments this week to see if there is any additional information. But the Gators, with only Trey Burton as a backup, need Brantley. Even at 75 percent, he is a better option than Burton. Thankfully, after Mississippi State on Saturday night, the Gators have a bye week. If Brantley is protected well against the Bulldogs, he could be much healthier for Georgia on Halloween weekend.