AT SOME POINT, perhaps as soon as the next time they communicate, Union captain Danny Califf will get an explanation from manager Peter Nowak about the knee injury that caused Nowak to bench the defender for the first time in his career in Philadelphia.

Nowak is no stranger to lineup changes.

If Union fans wanted to chronicle the roster moves and lineup changes during the franchise's first two seasons, they'd have a notebook the size of a dictionary.

Before the season, Nowak blew up a substantial portion of a playoff team, including the trade of fan favorite and leading goal scorer Sebastian Le Toux. But Califf was one of the few constants.

Before yesterday's 2012 home opener against the Colorado Rapids, Califf, an original Union member, had started all 62 of the games he was eligible to play. In his previous eight seasons in Major League Soccer, Califf, 32, had started 177 of 186 games.

So perhaps the only thing more surprising to Califf, who started the season opener at Portland last Monday, than when he found out he wasn't starting against Colorado was when he was informed later that Nowak had said it was related to the "big chunk of meniscus" Califf had had taken out of his left knee during the offseason.

Immediately after the 2-1 loss to Colorado, Califf only confirmed that he had a shot in his knee as Nowak had also said. Califf said he had a shot of "Synvisc" - a joint lubricant. Later, however, he answered a text from a reporter saying that he had indeed had surgery on Dec. 6.

This type of confusion concerning injury information is not that uncommon in sports. Some teams push the limit of denial as far as they can without violating a league's injury information policy.

That's not to say that is what happened in this case.

But plenty of teams have been known to discourage players from talking about injuries and/or medical procedures to reporters. They prefer to have the team make official announcements about such things, and players sometimes get caught in a quandary.

So in that context, it is reasonable that Califf initially felt it was not his place to say anything. He might have felt it was best to simply not confirm what he was told Nowak had said, especially since he did not know for sure.

What isn't in doubt, however, is that Califf did not believe his knee was a strong enough reason to keep him from playing.

He left no confusion about that.

"I'm OK, my knee is fine," Califf said when asked about his injury. "I feel fine.

"To be honest, I really don't have any idea [why he did not play.] I would have thought that we would have at least had a conversation. We didn't. I'm not sure what I might have gotten lost in translation."

When asked why Califf was replaced in the starting lineup by Philadelphia native Chris Albright, who just signed with the Union, Nowak gave a reasonable explanation.

"You guys don't know but [Califf] still has a shot in his knee," he said. "The doctors in the offseason took a pretty big chunk of meniscus.

"When we started preseason, he didn't do anything until the first day. We went from zero to 100 in pretty fast time. We still have questions.

"We have to go into this situation making sure that not only is he ready to play but he's going to be able to give the performance that we all suspect."

Why he just didn't explain it to Califf that way instead of telling him nothing is something only Nowak knows.

Of course, that logic begs the question as to why Califf was on the active roster. Because had there been an injury in the defense, he likely would have had to go into the game, negating any benefit gained from not playing.

That possibility was increased because Albright has an injury history that had limited him to just 27 MLS games since the start of the 2009 season.

"You never know," Nowak said. "[Albright] was coming back as well over the last 5 weeks. We just wanted to make sure that he was going to be available for us."

Regardless of what actually went on during the offseason, Califf felt he was healthy enough to play.

But honestly, Califf has been with Nowak for two seasons now. He's seen the manager start a guy one game and then let him disappear for the next few.

He's seen a guy be on the reserve team most of the season and then suddenly make his debut in a start in a crucial late-season game.

Rhyme and reason are often only known to Nowak.

But it had never happened to Califf until yesterday.

Now it's something the coach and captain should probably talk about, since they apparently didn't earlier.

"Maybe that's [Nowak's] style," Califf said. "I have no idea, but that is the situation now. I didn't expect it."

For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.