Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse gave a look as if he’d just been asked if he liked to eat pizza, and then responded, “yes.”
Fullback Paul Homer smiled and said with a hint of sarcasm, “Yeah, I’ve watched it a few times.”
Running backs coach Joel Thomas’ response was, “Oh yeah, everybody’s seen it.”
No, they weren’t being asked if they’d seen the new Twilight movie.
It was whether they had seen the infamous, amazing and alarming highlight of Cal’s Jahvid Best sustaining a season-ending concussion against Oregon State on Nov. 7 in Berkeley.
The play, which was shown endlessly on highlight shows and was all over youtube, shows Best taking a sweep and heading toward the end zone. At about 3 yards away, he sees a defender going low to tackle him at his knees, so Best tries to leap over the defender. And just as he takes flight, a second OSU defender comes over and hits Best pushing him even higher in the air.
Best appears to be almost eight feet off the ground at his apex and then falls quickly. He lands on his upper back and neck as his body nearly folds in half from an impact that is so hard his helmet goes flying off his head.
But the scary part follows as Best’s body goes rigid and he is clearly unconscious, later he was carted off the field.
“It was crazy,” Kearse said. “When I saw it, I was just in awe for a second. But I definitely would not want that to happen to me.”
Neither would any of the Huskies coaching staff.
But that’s where things get a little dicey.
Because while every football player can recall Best’s leap, the scary aftermath and the cautionary tale that follows, those same players also have an assortment of mental highlights of Reggie Bush leaping – sometimes as far 5 yards away – over defenders into the end zone for touchdowns and the glory that follows.
It leaves each player and coach with the same question: “to leap or not to leap”
Old-school coaches preach the philosophy of never, ever leaving your feet with the ball in your hands for any reason.
But today’s coaches aren’t quite so stubborn.
“I don’t coach jumping,” Thomas said. “You see some running backs that do a good job of jumping and hurdling, but you put yourself in a vulnerable position as well.”
Homer, who is probably the least likely of Huskies ballcarriers to ever try to jump over a player, said that while it isn’t coached, it isn’t forbidden.
“The running back coaches always tell the running backs, ‘If you are going to leave your feet, you are on your own,’ ” Homer said. “Basically, they’re saying, “if you do it and you score a touchdown, then great job. And if you do it and you get hurt, then what the heck were you doing?”
And, really, head coach Steve Sarkisian doesn’t want it be an absolute rule for his backs.
“You can’t overcoach it,” he said. “The guy was just trying to play football. At that moment, it’s hard to tell a guy don’t do this or don’t do that, instincts kick in and he’s just trying to get in the end zone.”
Taking away a runner’s instincts and making them hesitant is the worst thing a coach can do to a runner.
“Your natural instincts will tell you what to do,” Thomas said.
For the Huskies, it doesn’t seem jumping could be a problem for the running backs. Freshman Chris Polk is more likely to try to run through a defender than jump over him. Demetrious Bronson is also of that nature.
But Kearse didn’t shy away from the idea of it, saying “any way you can get into the end zone.”
For him, it’s like going up and catching a pass in traffic over the middle and knowing he’s going to get hit.
“There are some who fear it and some who don’t,” he said. “The great players don’t fear that.”
Realistically what happened to Best isn’t what happens to most players who make a leap or jump for extra yards.
“It happens every Saturday and Sunday,” Sarkisian said. “Right when (Best) jumped, there happened to be a player that was trying to keep him out of the end zone that really lifted him into the air and pushed him higher. If that hadn’t happened, the injury wouldn’t have happened.”
RB Chris Polk wore the red jersey at practice again on Wednesday. Sarkisian said he’s they are protecting him from a season’s worth of dings and dents. … OL Ryan Tolar was at practice in street clothes after missing the Tuesday practice with sickness. … Homer was asked if he saw his good friend and teammate Jake Locker leaning toward a decision in terms of going pro or returning to school. “He’s thinking about it,” he said. “I don’t know what he’s thinking about. I don’t know if he even knows what he’s thinking about.”