There was nothing to be proud of when watching Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle limp around the field last night in the National Championship game.
Thank God the talented speedster from Houston didn’t do further damage to himself after coming back too soon from a fractured ankle that required surgery in October.
I want to be very clear, I’m not blaming Waddle for wanting to play. I believe his wanting to be out there for his team was selfless and admirable.
Who I am blaming, 100 percent, is the team’s medical staff, head coach Nick Saban, and the people in Waddle’s inner circle.
Not one person I listed should have encouraged this man to go on the field last night and risk the possibility of throwing away his chance to provide generational wealth for his family as a first-round draft pick.
Before he was injured in the game against Tennessee, Waddle was the most explosive player in the Alabama receiving core, and that says a lot considering the Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith was lining up alongside him. Waddle is currently projected to be a mid-first-round pick in Todd McShay’s current 2021 mock draft. 2020 draft prospects who were selected around the same time Waddle is projected to be picked made around $15 million for their first contract with a more than $7 million signing bonus. That’s no chump change for the average guy.
The ability for Waddle to become a high earner not only likely means a lot for himself and his family, but it’s also important to the Black community. With the wealth gap in this country still disproportionately affecting Black Americans, when the opportunity comes to jump into another tax bracket it should be encouraged that Waddle do everything he can to ensure that happens.
The guys in the pros know exactly what I’m talking about, and many of them weighed in on the Waddle situation offering their advice to the young stud receiver.
That’s why it was a disgrace for the Alabama medical staff to put Waddle on that field without him being 110 percent. He was clearly limping in warmups and couldn’t run smoothly without discomfort in the ankle.
Even though ESPN later reported in the broadcast that the ankle is fully healed, there is a difference between being healed and being ready to play at the highest level. Waddle clearly was not ready to be out there and he was not at full strength. Even if the ankle was technically fine, if Waddle wasn’t comfortable playing on it then that could have led to him overcompensating by relying on other muscles too heavily which could have caused another injury aside from the ankle.
This is where Saban should have intervened. As a coach who cares about the players you bring through your program and cares about getting them to the next level, there is no way you can watch Waddle and think it was okay for him to be playing on that ankle.
At some point, Saban should have taken the decision out of the player’s hands and told him to sit down. Even if Waddle wanted to play in the game just for the memory of playing in a national championship, all he had to do was make one catch in the first quarter and then sit down. He finished the game with three catches for 34 yards and noticeably limped after most of these plays.
At the end of the day, Waddle did absolutely nothing to improve his draft stock on Monday night. If anything, him limping around the field may have hurt his chances of being selected high in April. Laboring around the field isn’t the prettiest final impression you want to give to NFL decision-makers. Waddle was essentially mortgaging his future for a chance to play in a game that his team was going to win anyway.
It was dangerous and irresponsible for Waddle to set foot on that field Monday night.
Sometimes in life, you need other people to tell you what is best for you. This was definitely one of those times for Waddle.
Thank God he made it through the game.
For all young players watching last night: What Waddle did is not an example to be followed, it is one to avoid.