As he has throughout the past month, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel declined to discuss specifics of junior quarterback Maty Mauk’s suspension for repeated discipline issues.
During the weekly SEC Football Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday, he did discuss how the Tigers handle certain off-field issues generally, elucidating his thinking to a degree.
“Any player that has a problem, and not just Maty or anybody that has a problem here, if we feel it’s one that counseling’s needed or what have you, we want to help our players,” Pinkel said.
Mauk was suspended Sept. 29 for an undisclosed violation of team rules and missed four games.
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Subsequent reports cited a drunken confrontation at a bar last Wednesday only hours after apologizing to teammates for the initial suspension.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in this, because this is a distraction to your football team, any team, and we have to overcome the distraction,” Pinkel said. “But the other side to that is helping kids. Anytime we have a player that needs help, working with their families and such, we try to do that and we try to do that on a consistent basis.”
He went on to say that the team’s psyche seems fine despite entering last week’s bye on a three-game skid for the first time since 2009.
“I think we’re good,” Pinkel said. “We lost a couple close games and that’s always difficult on a team. We win at a pretty high level around here.”
Missouri welcomed a special visitor, retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who authored “Lone Survivor” and was awarded the Purple Heart and Navy Cross for his actions in a June 2005 firefight with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, during the bye week.
Luttrell spoke with the Tigers through a connection with former Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington, according to Pinkel.
“He just talked about battling through adversity and things like that from a Seal perspective,” Pinkel said. “That was really just an opportunity that kind of happened. It wasn’t like we went out looking for it, so it was really an opportune situation. For the kids, it’s all about battling and competing and opportunities.”
Pinkel also was asked for his thoughts on a variety of other topics:
Missouri senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers entered the season as the top returning tackler in the SEC. He leads the nation with 103 tackles this season, but he wasn’t among 10 players chosen as a semifinalist for the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in the country.
Pinkel wasn’t aware of the snub until asked about it on the teleconference, but he admitted to some disappointment.
“He’s going to be paying football for a long time, so I really don’t know why that’s the case,” Pinkel said. “That’s probably disappointing as I hear it, because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. … He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s instinctive. He’ll play at the next level. Sounds like somebody just missed it.”
On former Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert being named the 49ers’ starter …
Former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert was announced as the 49ers’ new starting quarterback, giving a new lease on life to a football career that started as the No. 10 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by Jacksonville.
“I’m excited about it,” Pinkel said. “It’s an opportunity for him and I think he’s learned a lot. He wasn’t a real experienced player as far as years played coming out of college. … He’s got a clean slate, and it’s a great opportunity for him. I think he’s a very talented guy … and hopefully he can perform well.”
Pinkel was asked about Gabbert’s perceived lack of toughness.
“I never questioned his toughness, ever,” Pinkel said.
He admitted that he hasn’t analyzed each of Gabbert’s NFL starts, but “when he was with us that (toughness) was never a factor.”