The Pickett line

  • John Sleeper / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, November 13, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

‘Feels fine. Ready to go.’

By John Sleeper

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — The subject was Cody Pickett’s right shoulder, Seattle’s most talked-about body part since Marques Tuiasosopo’s bruised buttocks in 1999.

University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was, in effect, tossing up his hands, tired of the interrogatives. Ever since the moments following the USC game on Oct. 6, when Pickett came away with a third-degree shoulder separation, it’s been the same thing: How’s Cody?

"It’s impossible to tell," Neuheisel said. "You have to trust the kid. You have to ask him, ‘Are you OK?’ He always answers ‘Yes.’ That’s been his nature."

For six weeks, reporters have asked Pickett the question. Armed with Internet medical reports and desperate phone calls to trainers and physicians, the amateur diagnosis is that it takes six to eight weeks to heal, it comes with monstrous pain and it gives the user next to no range of motion.

Pickett sat out exactly one game.

He didn’t exactly like it.

"I gave it rest," he said following the Huskies’ 35-13 loss to UCLA, Pickett’s only absence. "I’m ready to go."

Ready to go.

Pickett uses those three words more than any in his vocabulary, as though they’re programmed by a computer chip embedded in his skull. He is maddingly stubborn in his refusal to admit the shoulder affects his performance.

It’s the innocent eyes. The matter-of-fact, meat-and-potatoes answers. Doesn’t hurt. That’s it. Next question.

It’s almost to the point where you believe him.

Pickett’s pleadings made sense when he somehow threw for a school-record 455 yards against Arizona. When he somehow made 49 throws on an arm damaged just 14 days prior. When he ran in from 3 yards out with 13 seconds left for the game-winning touchdown.

"Feels fine," Picket said afterward. "Ready to go."

Ready to go. That week, as the coaching staff scrutinized him closer than Jennifer Lopez’s wardrobe, Pickett refused to even wince each time he threw. Neuheisel even said he was looking at Pickett’s eyes for even a trace of pain. Any excuse to sit him down and save the shoulder from a blitzing linebacker.

Never happened.

It’s said that the most difficult task in sports is to hit a baseball thrown by a Major League pitcher.

Replace it with the act of yanking Pickett from a game.

Take the Stanford game, when defensive end Austin Lee threw Pickett down on the shoulder after Pickett dumped the ball off to tailback Rich Alexis. Pickett lay on the turf momentarily, stood with his arm initially limp, then moved it around, presumably to see if, indeed, he could move it.

All the while, Pickett avoided looking at the sidelines to Neuheisel, avoided giving any sign to come out.

Monday was when many thought he’d break the cycle. After a horrid day against Oregon State (13-for-32, 160 yards and an interception) certainly, Pickett had to admit the shoulder was sore enough to take away some zip on the ball.

Maybe it was projection, but it seemed to many in the press box that on Pickett’s interception to OSU corner Dennis Weathersby, the ball hung in the air, as if thrown from a damaged wing.

This, after Pickett was sandwiched by two burly OSU defenders.

Nope.

"It seemed like they were in the passing lanes all day," Pickett said.

And the shoulder?

"No," he said. "It’s sore, but it was just a bad day."

When Pickett’s feeling really expansive, he talks about the shoulder as being part of football.

"You can’t use the shoulder as an excuse or anything like that," he said. "Getting hurt’s just a part of the game. There are guys all over the field who get hurt. Something happens and you’ve got to go through it.

"There are a lot of guys on this team who are also hurt and they’re playing through it. That’s just part of the deal."

Apparently, so is keeping everyone guessing.

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