Bruised or broken? Wrist or hand? Rehabbing or rehashing?
The story about the injury which has sidelined Cleveland Browns quarterback Charlie Frye for three weeks grew bizarre Friday when media outlets, including ESPN.com, cited a source close to the two-year veteran as saying a second examination had revealed a broken bone in his hand. And then, hours later, Browns coach Romeo Crennel debunked those reports, continuing to insist the injury is a deep bruise.
"It seems some of you guys have been talking to the doctors, and all of a sudden the guy has a fracture," Crennel said. "He has a bone bruise. I said that yesterday. I said it the day before. I said it a couple weeks ago. And I'll say it tomorrow, if you ask me tomorrow. He has a bone bruise. It is getting better slowly."
Citing sources, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland and Akron Beacon Journal both reported Friday that Frye earlier this week sought a second opinion on his injured hand from a Pittsburgh specialist. The exam, the source said, revealed a broken bone on the top of the Frye's right hand, near the wrist. Sources close to the quarterback confirmed that diagnosis to ESPN.com later Friday morning.
A few hours later, with Crennel suggesting he was being perceived as trying to conceal the severity of the injury, the situation grew increasingly confusing. In fact, Crennel employed that very term, "confusing," to describe the events of the past few days.
Certainly, it's a lot of attention being focused on an injured quarterback who plays for a franchise that has a 4-10 record and was long ago eliminated from playoff contention.
"We aren't trying to hide anything," Crennel said. "Then you guys don't believe what we tell you. Maybe you don't trust us. Maybe you don't trust me. I tell you that it's a bone bruise, and you say, 'Hey, it's a fracture.' One way or another, you look bad or I look bad. None of us really needs to look bad, because the truth is what it is. The truth is the truth. I tell you what I know."
Frye, who started the first 12 games of the year, has missed the last two outings and will not play Sunday when the Browns host Tampa Bay. Derek Anderson, who has played well since he replaced Frye in the first half of a Dec. 3 game, will get his third straight start.
The Browns tend to be rather guarded with their pronouncements about injuries and may simply be parsing medical terms with their explanation. Frye had declined until Friday to discuss his hand injury, which has kept him out of practice for nearly three full weeks, and for which he continues to receive daily treatments.
Why a source close to the quarterback would reveal the results of the second opinion is unknown. But it is believed that Frye feels the Browns should have acknowledged the severity of the injury.
Still, on Friday, even Frye was somewhat convoluted in describing the injury. He noted that he spoke with Browns trainer Marty Lauzon and team physician Dr. Anthony Miniaci, and was apprised the injury was a bone bruise. Asked what the specialist in Pittsburgh told him, Frye replied: "The same thing." But he then chose not to elaborate. He did note that, at this point, he can only throw the ball 10 yards.
"It's just frustrating," Frye said. "It's a part of the game and you have to deal with it."
One element on which everyone seems to agree is that the injury will not require surgery. The Pittsburgh specialist advised Frye, a source said, that the injury will take about 4-6 weeks to heal. Frye should be fully recovered well in advance of the start of the Browns' offseason program in March.
Frye, 25, has experienced problems even gripping the ball since suffering the injury. While some of the swelling in his wrist has subsided, there is still discomfort. In his 12 starts this season, Frye, who assumed the starting role from Trent Dilfer for the final five games in 2005, completed 227 of 358 passes for 2,267 yards, with 10 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions, for a passer rating of 72.0.
Anderson had not thrown a regular-season pass until three weeks ago, when he relieved the injured Frye against the Kansas City Chiefs. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 171 yards, with two touchdown passes and one interception in that Dec. 3 overtime victory against the Chiefs. The former Oregon State star then lost the first two starts of his career, at Pittsburgh on Dec. 7 and at Baltimore last Sunday, but performed well in both outings. For the season, Anderson has completed 56 of 90 passes for 670 yards, with five touchdown passes, four interceptions and passer rating of 85.0.
Crennel this week backed off earlier comments that Frye might have to re-earn his starting job when he is healthy. He indicated that Frye remains the No. 1 quarterback looking to the future. Still, there remains some thought that Anderson, who has been poised and confident in his first two starts, could challenge for the starting job in camp next summer.
Concluded Crennel about the various reports surrounding Frye's injury: "If the source is a doctor, tell the source to call me and let me know. If the source is not a doctor, tell him to keep his mouth shut."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.