ANN ARBOR - Not that there's an injury crisis with the University of Michigan football team, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan just set up a satellite office next to the stadium.
The Big House is turning into the Big Triage Unit.
After just two games, the Wolverines have had their ranks cut deeply by injuries - especially along the offensive line, where three starters or top backups are likely out for this Saturday's final non-conference game, against Eastern Michigan.
The maladies haunting UM are nothing in particular - it's your orthopedic smorgasbord - joints, bones, tendons and ligaments.
"I think we're a very, very unlucky team in that regard," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who has gone to great lengths to not comment specifically on injuries, lest he give the opposition some sort of edge.
"And we're certainly not at full strength. We've lost some great football players, but that's part of this game. It's the unfortunate part, because a guy like [Tim] Massaquoi is playing in his last year at Michigan, and to lose him for a while . . ."
Carr, who will be without at least a half-dozen players who in the preseason figured prominently in Michigan's plans, stopped short of assigning a time frame to Massaquoi's recovery, or that of any other downed player.
"I can't tell you how long - and I'm not going to comment on length and when people are coming back, because I don't know," Carr said. "I'm certainly during the course of a week not always going to tell you about injuries because that puts our team at a disadvantage. Because when a team knows ahead of time who is not going to play, that helps them, so it's nothing about anything else than that."
One of the most crucial losses is at tailback. Mike Hart, last season's Big Ten freshman of the year (1,455 yards, nine touchdowns), limped off the field early in Saturday's loss to Notre Dame. Hart appeared to be icing his hamstring on the bench, and did not return to the game.
"Mike Hart came in yesterday, and the spirit is willing," Carr said. "There's no doubt Mike Hart is one great football player. That's what I can tell you, and he wants to play. But we've got to see how he does tomorrow, because the flesh is not always able."
Hart, who averaged 27 carries per game over Michigan's final 10 games of 2004, has been replaced by freshman Kevin Grady. Along the line in front of Grady, a lot of experience has been put on the shelf due to injuries, and that led to problems against the Irish.
"There were quite a few things that happened, but as an offensive line we can't have one or two guys not do their assignment on a given play," senior guard Leo Henige said. "It takes some time to gel, and obviously injuries can be a factor some times, but you need to have guys on the same page constantly in order to have success."
Henige, who has fought back from knee injuries to continue his career with the Wolverines, said he looks at the injuries as just another factor involved in football.
"We can't use injuries as an excuse," Henige said. "We've had some bad luck in terms of the injuries, but it's something we need to keep working through. We have guys who are going to step up and perform."
Fullback Brian Thompson said that when a player goes down, it's understood that his replacement needs to assume the role, executing at the same level.
"When Mike Hart got hurt, I wasn't really sure what was going on over on the sideline," Thompson said.
"But in a situation like that, you've got to have someone step in and play the spot. That's the way football is. It happens every day and you've just got to have someone come in and step up. It's a requirement for the position."
Carr said the Wolverines cannot and will not use injuries as an excuse, on any level.
"This is not something we're going to dwell on," Carr said. "We're going to go forward. We're not going to dwell on any of the things that we don't have any control over. We've just got to go to work and become the best team we can be and that's what we're going to do."
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