Zulgad: Why Donnell Greene is right to skip Gophers’ bowl game

The Gophers will play Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26 in Detroit. The team’s left tackle, Donnell Greene, won’t be with them.

The senior announced via Instagram on Thursday that he has decided to sign with an agent and pursue an NFL career. Greene, who transferred to Minnesota from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, could have waited one more game before making the move and there are likely some who will argue that’s what he should have done.

That argument won’t be made here.

Greene made the right move by doing what’s best for him and not worrying about a big business that is sure to try to guilt him into believing he let down his program and his teammates.

As the Star Tribune pointed out in its story about Greene’s decision not to spend the day after Christmas in Detroit, he is joining a trend of players who are electing to skip non-playoff bowls, as they pursue a career in the NFL. This list, according to the paper, includes Iowa tight end Noah Fant; Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary; North Carolina State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon and linebacker Germaine Pratt; Arizona State wide receiver K’Neal Harry; Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill; Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver; South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel; and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams.

Why should any player who has aspirations of making it to the NFL run the risk of getting injured in an exhibition game that exists only to provide television programming during the holidays?

Now, if it’s a game that is part of the college football playoff that’s different. That can lead to a championship and there aren’t many competitors who are going to say no to that opportunity.

A tweet about Green’s decision on Thursday drew one response questioning why anyone with the Gophers football program would play in any games since the chance of winning a national title at Minnesota isn’t exactly realistic. But at least playing in regular-season games can lead to something productive and get you noticed by NFL scouts.

It’s unlikely Greene would have done anything at Ford Field to change how scouts feel about him or that would have made it worth it for him to risk injury.

Another tweet questioned whether players on lower-seeded teams in the NCAA basketball tournament should start sitting. Two things come to mind. One, basketball isn’t nearly as dangerous as football. Obviously, you can get hurt but odds are far greater something catastrophic is going to happen on the football field. Two, no matter where a team is seeded in the NCAA basketball tournament that club has a chanceĀ  to advance toward a championship game. (I’m all for a pro prospect not playing in the NIT, if anyone is thinking that.)

One of the many meaningless bowl games gets a player some gifts and little else.

Greene missed one game this season, sitting out on Nov. 3 against Illinois, because of a leg injury and there’s a chance that issue has continued to bother him. That would be an even better reason for him not to play.

College football has no concern when it comes to protecting a players’ ability to profit from his talents so somebody has to look out for them. In this case, Greene, and several others, are simply doing what they think is right for them.

It might seem selfish but the reality is it’s also smart.