Star LSU running back Leonard Fournette was ruled out for today's game against Florida with an unexplained injury. That was sad, because Fournette is a great player, but wasn't really a consequential move for LSU's season, since the Tigers can't win the SEC West—with or without him. At best, Fournette could help LSU land in a slightly better bowl game.
But apparently Fournette's injury status was negotiable, because he decided to play after getting into a pregame shoving match with a Florida assistant coach.
Fight breaks out between #LSU-Florida players. Leonard Fournette and a Florida assistant coach shove each other. pic.twitter.com/wFZwyW1nU7
— Joshua Thornton (@JoshuaThornton_) November 19, 2016
SEC Nation just reported Fournette was not expected to play - but after being shoved during scuffle, he asked O if he could suit up. #LSU
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 19, 2016
This is such a bad idea on so many levels, no matter how well Fournette plays. Even if he escapes without getting hurt even more.
You can't blame Founette for asking; players want to play, especially when they feel slighted. Not to mention that they want to send a message to scouts that they can tough things out. But let's put this simply: Fournette's an unpaid player and a likely top NFL Draft. It's a bad recipe—just ask Marcus Lattimore, who was once a top NFL prospect, but struggled with injuries in college and then flamed out in the NFL.
It's a coach's job to look out for players' best interests. Concussion protocol exists for that exact reason: coaches shouldn't allow athletes to jeopardize their futures due to passion. The same precautions should go for other kinds of injuries as well. Interim coach Ed Orgeron would surely like to finish this season on a high note, as he auditions for the full-time head coaching job, but that can't be the focus over Fournette's future when Fournette has already made the school millions.
Fans will defend Orgeron's decision to let Fournette play because Fournette wanted to, and because they selfishly want to watch him, too. But if a player was ruled too hurt to play initially, a heated argument shouldn't change that. It's a failure of people who supposedly have the players' best interests in mind.