Rodger Saffold Fails Physical, Then Passes: Why This Happens

If you're only reading headlines, then the saga of Rodger Saffold gets a bit confusing. As a top free agent, the Oakland Raiders met with Saffold, negotiated a big-dollar deal and even brought in his parents for the announcement. Next thing you know, there's no deal and Saffold is headed back to St. Louis, where he gets a reportedly smaller deal (via ESPN), but nearly equivalent in guaranteed money.

It leaves football fans in Oakland and St. Louis asking one question: What happened?

With the Raiders, it could be almost anything, but this is actually a common problem. Baseball fans will recall that something similar happened this offseason in Baltimore, as the Orioles failed Grant Balfour after agreeing to terms with the reliever. Balfour quickly signed with the Tampa Bay Rays and has shown no issues in spring training.

"Physical" is a term that we all think we understand, since we all get them (or should). For most people, our primary care physician looks us over, we take some tests and give a sample or two, and look a little deeper into anything unusual that may arise.

In sports, it's similar, but as with the physicals you or I get, there's not much that's standardized about them. In some cases, they're perfunctory. "Is he breathing? He passes," joked an MLB team doctor who puts hundreds of players through the process each year. "You don't go in blind. Aside from trades and free agents, you know these guys and you have records on them."

It's those records that really guide the process and give us insight as to why the Raiders and Rams seemingly disagree. "The athletic trainers will have gone through the records before I see the player," the MLB team physician continued. "And while I look him over, I'm only going to focus on the important things. If he's a pitcher, I'm looking at his arm. What really draws my attention are past injuries."

With Saffold, the medica...

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