Florida’s interim coach said college football players can’t be put in harm’s way if they’re injured.
But that’s exactly what Randy Shannon and his Florida Gators coaching staff appeared to do during Saturday’s 28-20 loss to South Carolina.
During the second quarter, quarterback Malik Zaire injured his left leg on a 23-yard run and left the game. He struggled after getting tackled and left the field.
After sitting out just one play, Zaire returned to the field. The play the Gators called on Zaire’s first snap back in action, appeared to be designed running play for Zaire.
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The same Zaire who had an injury to his leg.
Predictably, Zaire came up lame.
“After he collapsed, we took him out because of the severity of the injury. This is not the NFL, this is college football and no matter what the injury is, we can’t allow guys to put themselves in harm way,” Shannon said after it appeared that’s exactly what happened.
On his ill-fated return to the field in the SEC game, Zaire dropped back and gave a look like it was a passing play before tucking the ball and starting to run a draw. He made it three steps before collapsing to the grass without being touched by a Gamecock defender.
“Evaluation from the medical staff did a great job of running him through some stuff and making sure he was okay, and he was okay,” Shannon told the media after the game.
There was no word on what “stuff” the Gators’ medical team used to evaluate Zaire’s injury for the one play he missed before his failed return.
“Like anything else when that happened, we had to make sure the safety of him was more valuable than anything, so that is why we took him back out,” Shannon said.
From that point on, the Notre Dame transfer did not return to the game.
“I cannot put anyone in that situation,” Shannon said after the game.
Although Shannon told CBS during a halftime interview Zaire could return to the game in an emergency situation, according to seccountry.com.
As Shannon continued to explain, he said the whole situation brought the quarterback who transferred from Notre Dame to tears.
“He wanted to go back in, he came out at halftime and I came up to him and said, ‘I can’t do it to you. We will be okay here, we will be alright.’ He just started crying,” Shannon said.
Florida fans weren’t crying, but many were unhappy with the decision to put a clearly injured player in harms way.
Gators fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season, one that has seen former head coach Jim McElwain fired two weeks ago. The restless supporters took to social media to vent and critique the decision to play Zaire.