It looked bad. Malik Zaire crumbled after taking the snap and shifting his weight to left leg.

But how could Florida have known Zaire was hurt? It’s not like two plays earlier, he left the game with an injury on the same knee. Oh wait. That’s exactly what happened.

The extent of Zaire’s injury remains unknown, although he donned a large knee brace for the remainder of the game as he watched his team lose from the sideline. But even if the injury turns out to be a simple bruise, interim coach Randy Shannon deserves criticism for putting his starting quarterback in jeopardy. After the game, Shannon defended the decision.

“Evaluation from the medical staff did a great job of running him through some stuff, making sure he was OK,” Shannon said.

The staff didn’t do a great job, and Zaire wasn’t OK. When Shannon was asked why he thought Zaire was OK, the former defensive coordinator answered a completely different question. It was as if Shannon thought the reporter asked why Zaire didn’t re-enter the game — when in reality, he did.

“We didn’t know the seriousness of his injury, so we took him out,” Shannon said. “No matter what the injury is, we can’t allow guys to put themselves in harm’s way.”

Except you put him directly in harm’s way. You even called what looked like a designed quarterback run on his first play back.

I get that guys want to play. I get that they want to play hurt. Just like babies want to touch stoves and dogs want to eat chocolate. But we still don’t let them.

Shannon said Zaire even asked to go back in the game a second time after the second quarter.

“He came out at halftime and I walked up to him and said, ‘I can’t do it to you. We’re OK here, we’ll be alright with Feleipe,” Shannon said.

Where were those words when Zaire first went out? Where were they when you gave Zaire the green light? I guess Shannon deserves credit for stopping Zaire the second time. Just like you deserve credit for not walking into the middle of traffic and lying down in the road. It’s not a hard decision. But apparently, it was too hard for Shannon the first time Zaire asked to go back in.

Shannon’s made a few bad choices over the two-game tenure of his stint as UF’s head coach. But it’s hard to say any was worse than letting Zaire run with the ball minutes after hurting his knee.

At least have the wherewithal to say, “Jog around first” or “Let me see you put weight on it.”

But Shannon didn’t do that. And if we hear this week that Zaire is out for the season, you know who to blame.

You can follow Matt Brannon on Twitter @MattB_727, and contact him at mbrannon@alligator.org.

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