There's nothing new about NFL teams using the injury report for chicanery.
Tom Brady is listed every week with injuries that will never keep him from playing, players with broken legs are listed as questionable and, just this week, Brett Favre went from out to starting on Monday morning. The fact that he left Monday night's game with a head injury could be taken as a sign that some karmic power doesn't approve of all these shenanigans.
The Jets might want to be careful. Rex Ryan spent most of the day Thursday taking about the chance that Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury is worse than they originally thought. They went so far as saying that he will be a game-time decision on Sunday against the Bears, a big diversion from the insistence that he'll be taking every snap.
Perhaps that's the reason why a lot of people are seeing other diversions at work. Rich Cimini of ESPN New York and Mark Cannizzaro of the Post both suggested that the Jets might be overplaying the seriousness of the injury to deflect attention from Ryan's rough week and the general attention that it has brought to the Jets' habit of making news off the field.
Far-fetched? Not really when you read Brian Schottenheimer's far rosier take on the quarterback's condition. He contradicted the head coach on both the likelihood that Sanchez would start and about how good Sanchez looked in practice. Those quotes pop up all over the place, but the back pages still focus on the chance Sanchez won't be playing on Sunday.
The other reason why it is hard to totally swallow the grim prognosis is the fact that there's very little reason to wait until gameday if there's any doubt about Sanchez's health. While the Jets would obviously prefer to win on Sunday, it isn't exactly a must-win game for their playoff chances. They need just one win in the next two games and have tiebreaker edges should one of those wins not come down the pike, which is hardly a situation that calls for risking the well-being of their quarterback.
When all is said and done, losing on Sunday with Mark Brunell is preferable to losing with him in the Wild Card round.
There are less nefarious explanations for the change in story. The expectation game is always part of the equation, especially in light of the two weeks before the win over the Steelers. A poor game for Sanchez that can be explained away by a shoulder injury is better than one that casts doubt about his ability.
Either way, it's silly to play such games. But it's even sillier to play them with the health of your quarterback when it isn't absolutely necessary.