I think if I were a GM or head coach and I drafted a player with a heart condition, I might monitor him extremely closely. I might also ease him into the fold, tracking him all the way. But it doesn’t sound like the Raiders have any plans to do that with Maurice Hurst.
I asked GM Reggie McKenzie if the Raiders had any plans to ease Hurst into things and he said flatly “No, not at all.”
“The fact is, he does have a heart condition, but it is a situation where he’ll get checked every year,” McKenzie added. “Right now, he’s good.”
Hurst lasted until the 5th round of the draft due to red flags about his heart that had him dismissed from the scouting combine. He visited the Raiders this offseason and team doctors cleared him enough that they felt confident in drafting him. At least they did once the fifth round hit.
“Unless our medical people flat out rejects a guy, we’re not going to flunk them,” McKenzie said. “If they feel like they can play this year, we’re going to pass them. If they’re going to be well at a certain point, we’re going to keep them on the board. If it’s something that will prevent them from playing forever, then we’ll take them off the board.”
The Raiders and Reggie McKenzie know full well of such things. His first number one draft pick as Raiders GM was DJ Hayden who nearly died in college from being kicked in the chest and had to have heart surgery. That didn’t stop McKenzie from making Hayden the Raiders pick at 12 overall.
Back then McKenzie seemed pretty confident Hayden’s health was a non-issue. Then in the first OTA Hayden started feeling chest pains and was rushed to the hospital to have surgery to remove scar tissue from his abdomen. From there he missed the rest of offseason workouts, spent most of camp in a red no-contact jersey, and was clearly scared of hitting anyone when he took the field during the season.
Outside of the irregular EKG results on Hurst’s heart, there is no evidence of serious concerns. He played four years at Michigan, never missing a game, and was cleared by doctors at Michigan and at Harvard.
Those thumbs up were of no comfort to 31 other teams, and the Raiders as well, through four rounds of the draft as a player who is otherwise considered a top ten talent remained on the board. No team wants to be the one that drafts a player who collapses on the field or something. For the Raiders part, McKenzie says they at least know what the issue is, which is kinda important.
“It’s something he has to go through, however you want to term it,” McKenzie said of Hurst. “Now that they’ve found out whatever this condition is, I’m not going to get into all the medical terms, all the what-ifs. He’s just going to have to follow a certain deal where he gets checked just so everyone is on the same page and we all know everything.”
There are some what-ifs here, as McKenzie put it. Some of those what-ifs are exciting. Like what if he never has an issue and performs like the elite talent he is? The alternative what-ifs range from him not being able to play — which are not as big of a deal for the team due to his draft position — to much scarier.
None of that is stopping the Raiders from putting him out there full go with all the other rookies next weekend for the team’s rookie minicamp.