It is competitive athletics. The natural tendency is to push through adversity, push through pain, even push through illness if necessary.
But with Irish All-American Luke Harangody, who is sidelined indefinitely with pneumonia, Notre Dame and head coach Mike Brey are trying step back and take a wide-angle view of the situation.
"We'll be really safe," said Brey Tuesday night following Notre Dame's 102-76 home victory over South Dakota.
"Two days ago I was thinking, 'Let's be aggressive! We've got to get him back for Ohio State!' But I've really come back to earth on that and understand there is a big picture here and a lot of big battles, and we don't want a relapse of this thing because this is something that can hang around for a while if you don't crush it. We got it in the early stages, which was great."
Ohio State—4-0 after an upset victory at Miami Tuesday night—looms Saturday in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium. Every game matters, particularly before the start of Big East play when the "blood letting" of an ultra-competitive conference begins.
But much more important is Big East play, which doesn't begin until Dec. 31 when the Irish take on DePaul in Chicago.
"It's day to day with him," said Brey of Harangody, who began feeling the effects of pneumonia during the tail end of the trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational.
"You don't rule out anything, but I'm going to be really cautious. We're going to be really smart about this thing. We're not going to do anything crazy Saturday if it's not a healthy situation. (But) he is chomping at the bit."
Harangody is scheduled to shoot around Wednesday. If he can practice Thursday and Friday, Notre Dame's medical staff could give him the green light for Saturday's game, but only if the indicators point to a safe and healthy return.
"As I told him in the Los Angeles airport when he was in misery flying back, 'Look, if I have you New Year's Eve healthy when we go over to DePaul, I'll take it, because we've got a lot of big games left, starting then,'" Brey said.
"He has lost weight, about 12 pounds. He's got to work to get that back a little bit. He is feeling a lot better the last two days. The weekend was tough. He stayed at home, which was good. His parents were there and it was really quiet. It was good having him back and I know his teammates were happy to have him back."
Harangody sat on the bench for Notre Dame's victory over Furman Sunday and then again Tuesday night.
"Our doctors X-rayed him and his chest was clear," Brey said. "We did some blood work on him. I haven't heard the results of that. Our doctors will say (when) it's okay. Then you've got to (ask Harangody) how he feels, and then you've got to look at him and see in a workout if it's legit and can he really do this."
If Harangody doesn't play this Saturday against Ohio State, he almost undoubtedly would be ready to go the following Saturday, Dec. 13, when the Irish host Boston University. Whenever he returns, he will be back in the starting lineup.
"Luke Harangody is a starter when he comes back," Brey said. "I don't think he's a guy that I would bring off the bench. We've just got to make sure he's healthy enough to do that. We would go back to our lineup if everybody is healthy and bring (Luke) Zeller off the bench."