COLUMBIA — When Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel explained why James Franklin did not play against Arizona State in a postgame news conference, many people were surprised.
"It was just too painful for him, and he didn't want to play," Pinkel said.
The coach's words left questions about Franklin's toughness. Football players are often expected to do anything to be on the field, whether it's reasonable or not.
But Franklin has played through pain before. He dealt with injuries throughout last season and did not miss a game. In a game at Texas A&M, Franklin declined painkillers and played with a knee injury.
Still, there was speculation that Franklin might lose the respect or trust of teammates after his decision to sit out last Saturday with an inflamed bursa in his right shoulder.
In an SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks face the Tigers this Saturday, was asked about the situation, and he spoke about the issue of taking painkillers.
"I believe it's a personal decision," Spurrier said.
Spurrier brought up one of his own players, who would not take an IV at halftime after cramping up, comparing it to Franklin's choice.
Spurrier said it's not the role of the coach to determine whether players are healthy enough to play.
"They (the trainers) never say, 'Well he's hurt, coach, but if you need him, go play him.' No, they don't say that," Spurrier said. "As coaches, we say, 'Can he play? And does he want to play?' And then you go from there.'"
With that said, Spurrier expects Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw to start when South Carolina hosts Missouri at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Shaw injured his shoulder in South Carolina's season-opening win at Vanderbilt, before re-aggravating the injury last week.
As for Franklin, Pinkel said he expected the junior quarterback to throw Wednesday after resting his arm earlier in the week.
"He told me that he feels really, really good," Pinkel said. "He's almost symptom free, so we'd be excited if he could get going again and be excited to have him back if he's ready."
Are quarterbacks safer running than passing?
This season, Pinkel has repeatedly talked about Franklin's responsibility to avoid taking hits while running the ball. To help prevent injuries, he wants his quarterback to be smart when deciding to fight for yards or go down. He would rather see his quarterback slide than have him charge into a linebacker.
Pinkel said that so far this season, Franklin has been doing a good job picking his spots to fight for yardage. He said Franklin is more likely to get injured on passing plays than when he runs the ball.
"His problems as far as getting hit or beat up a little bit he would say, has not been as much running the football," Pinkle said. "It's more getting hit throwing the football. We're playing some great defensive lineman this week that, they take their shots at him. That's where more of his problem have been, not running."
The injuries to Franklin and Shaw came when the players took hits on passing plays.
Spurrier also acknowledged the defensive linemen teams have to face each week. He blamed Shaw's injury on a missed blocking assignment but added that it's difficult to hold off the pressure for long anyway.
With quarterbacks taking big hits on passing plays, running the ball might actually be the option with less injury risk. Whatever the case, Spurrier is not afraid to have his quarterback carry the ball.
"Part of our offense is with him running the ball," Spurrier said. "If he's cleared 100 percent to play, he should have a few carries running it."