I don't delve much into major-league baseball in this blog, but Atlanta Brave legend Chipper Jones has called out teammate and rising star Jason Heyward for not playing with pain and that's a topic worth exploring.
Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Heyward's insistence on not coming back from a sore right shoulder until he was 100 percent healthy: "I think where Jason might have erred was the comment that he made, 'I'm not coming back until it doesn't hurt anymore.' That has a tendency to rub people the wrong way. And we understand where he's coming from -- he wants to be healthy when he plays, so he can go out and give himself the best opportunity to be successful. I get that.
"What Jason needs to realize is that Jason at 80 percent is a force, and Jason at 80 percent is better than a lot of people in this league. And that there are a bunch of his teammates that are out there playing with discomfort and not healthy, and still going at it."
Chipper is exactly right on this one. Every real athlete knows that sports will, given enough time, make you hurt. Badly.
The best learn how to manage pain and play through it, because if you wait until you're 100 percent, you're waiting until the next Opening Day. No NFL player ever feels 100 percent by Week 2 of the regular season. Walk through the Panthers' locker room every Monday after a Sunday game and you see a variety of grimaces, and most of those guys are playing again six days later.
I used to cover the Miami Dolphins, where Coach Don Shula was known to have a great tolerance for pain -- his players' pain, that is. Shula was old-school. He had played in the league, and played hurt, and he expected his players to do the same.
Medicine is much better now, and of course there is no sense in hurting an injury worse and knocking yourself out for 6 weeks instead of 2. And injuries like concussions have their own timetable, of course, and must be treated especially carefully.
But in Heyward's case, Jones has called him out for a reason. For Heyward to become truly great, it sounds like he's going to have to cowboy up.