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Andrew Luck's rib injury calls Colts into question

The NFL will look into what could be a violation of the league's injury report policy by the Colts amid reports that Andrew Luck suffered fractured ribs that were never disclosed. AP Photo/AJ Mast

If the Indianapolis Colts' injury reports are "accurate," as general manager Ryan Grigson insisted Sunday, then why didn't the team disclose Andrew Luck's fractured ribs? That's a question the team must answer in the coming days.

The NFL will look into the discrepancy amid what, on the surface, appears to be a clear violation of NFL rules. This passage from the league's 2015 injury report policy leaves little room for interpretation:

"All players with significant or noteworthy injuries must be listed on the report, even if the player takes all the reps in practice, and even if the team is certain that he will play in the upcoming game. This is especially true of key players and those players whose injuries have been covered extensively by the media. This policy is of paramount importance in maintaining the integrity of the game."

If you sense the irony when reading that final sentence, given the Colts' role in starting the NFL's ongoing Deflategate controversy, you're probably not the only one. The policy was developed in part to ensure that no team could gain a competitive advantage by hiding injuries. All teams expect to be on a level playing field when it comes to public injury information.

Luck missed two games last month because of what the Colts listed as a shoulder injury and has played far below expectations in the two games since his return. His Total QBR in a Week 7 loss to the New Orleans Saints was a season-low 19.8, prompting continuing questions about his health.

In order to avoid an NFL penalty, which could come in the form of a fine and/or possibly draft pick forfeiture, the Colts must argue that multiple fractured ribs is not a significant injury, that they never limited Luck's practice time and that the injury never threatened his availability for a game.

A similar issue arose last season with the Dallas Cowboys, who never acknowledged that quarterback Tony Romo was dealing with a rib injury. The NFL did not discipline the Cowboys, in part because there were no fractures and the injury was not deemed significant enough to merit disclosure.

Viewed from afar, it's difficult to understand how fractured ribs wouldn't be considered a significant injury for an upper-level starting quarterback whose performance suddenly drops. The Colts will have an opportunity to explain it to the NFL. Given their role in Deflategate, their response will be highly anticipated.