While some top NFL draft prospects have announced they are going to play in their teams’ bowl games, many others are choosing to sit out to avoid injury. However, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has now said that won’t be him. Rosen’s availability for Tuesday’s Cactus Bowl game against Kansas State is up in the air, as he’s still recovering from a concussion sustained in the Bruins’ Nov. 24 season finale against Cal (the second concussion he’s suffered this season), and Tracy Pierson of 247Sports’ Bruin Report Online wrote Saturday morning that Rosen “will not play in the Cactus Bowl Tuesday, according to sources.” However, Rosen told Norm Frauenheim of the Los Angeles Times Saturday afternoon that he plans to play if UCLA’s doctors clear him:
Josh Rosen, who doesn’t know whether doctors will clear him to play in the Cactus Bowl and isn’t certain if he’ll return to UCLA or enter the NFL Draft, is sure of one thing. At least, he was Saturday.
He says he’ll be at quarterback for the Bruins against Kansas State on Tuesday night at Chase Field if he gets the medical OK.
“Absolutely,” Rosen said. “I’m here.”
…”Get checked every morning,” said Rosen, who said he saw doctors Saturday when the Bruins practiced at a high school in Gilbert, a Phoenix suburb.
When asked if the latest diagnosis was optimistic, Rosen couldn’t be sure.
“I don’t know,” he said of a decision that might not be made until game time. “I’m not into inferring. But we’ll see.”
Playing in the bowl game if cleared is an interesting move for Rosen, and one that could pay off big or backfire spectacularly. Rosen, a junior, hasn’t declared for the NFL draft yet, but if he goes that route, many have projected him as a possible first overall pick already. Thus, he definitely has a lot to lose if he delivers a bad performance or, worse still, suffers a serious injury. However, he could have some things to gain as well.
For one, if Rosen was healthy but opted to sit out, some NFL teams might consider that a mark against him. For another, there’s the competition to think of; Wyoming’s Josh Allen, another much-discussed junior quarterback prospect, was impressive in the Cowboys’ 37-14 Famous Potato Bowl win over Central Michigan Friday, completing 11 of 19 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns (including 104 yards and three TDs in the first quarter while the game was still in question) and declaring for the draft afterwards. And USC sophomore Sam Darnold, another top quarterback prospect, is expected to play in the Cotton Bowl against Ohio State. So it might not be great for Rosen if those other two prospects have good games and he doesn’t play. Yes, there’s a whole body of work to consider, but recent games often stick in the minds of evaluators. And beyond that, a great game from Rosen might elevate his stock further and make him even more of an obvious high pick.
There are still a few days to go before the game, and it sounds like the decision on whether to clear Rosen or not may come close to game time. So we’ll have to wait and see if he actually plays. But it’s interesting to hear him saying on the record that he’ll play if he is cleared. It’s a decision that certainly carries some risk, but it could have upside as well.
Update: Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman is reporting that the doctors won’t clear Rosen according to sources, which would make his decision moot. But it’s still interesting that Rosen wanted to play in this one despite his already-lofty draft status.