Concussions were the hot topic in football health and safety Tuesday, including quarterbacks and running backs:
* The Chicago Sun-Times reported Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was feeling a little bit better Monday night following his concussion during Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
* ESPN.com reported this may have been Cutler’s sixth concussion in the NFL. The Chicago Tribune said that it appears Cutler suffered multiple concussions in the first half, raising questions about the league’s head-injury protocol. The Tribune also reported Cutler cancelled his weekly radio show on WMVP-AM 1000.
* While The Associated Press reported that Bears coach Lovie Smith thought the team handled Cutler’s head injury properly, suburban Chicago Northwest Herald columnist Jon Styf said that despite their due diligence with Cutler’s concussion, they still put him him at-risk.
“When they are injured, we take them out. Before that, no.” That was Lovie Smith, after Sunday night’s game, explaining why Jay Cutler went back into the game after being violently hit by the Texans’ Tim Dobbins. It was clear Cutler had been hit hard. It’s less clear why he wasn’t removed from the game immediately and sent to the locker room. He was sent to the locker room early for examination for a rib injury three weeks ago after getting body-slammed by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh on Monday Night Football. This time, he stayed in the game until being removed at the half.
* CBSChicago.com reported that NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth spoke irresponsibly about concussions in regards to Cutler’s hit.
Just before the he-man scramble, Cutler had been hit in the head by onrushing Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins. He stayed down, but stayed in as officials sorted out offsetting penalties. Collinsworth remarked that the delay was beneficial for Cutler, since he could clear the “cobwebs.” This kind of wordplay is exactly what the league claims to be fighting, cognizant of McMahon’s true stories. “Cobwebs,” “getting one’s bell rung,” “getting dinged,” etc., are being purged from the NFL lexicon. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was recently criticized, in fact, for using the oxymoronic term “mild concussion” when discussing his own quarterback.
* On the other hand, SI.com’s Don Banks said while there are still issues with the NFL’s concussion protocol, a lot has been improved over the years.
Sunday’s examples are to be learned from, not overlooked. But stepping back and taking a bigger picture view of the challenges inherent in quickly and accurately diagnosing concussions in the middle of a game, the NFL already has made quite a bit of improvement in what is a rather inexact science. Are mistakes still being made? Undoubtedly. Is the idea of an independent neurologist on every sideline a step that still needs to happen? Probably so, if the league wants to do everything possible to mitigate the chance of an injured player doing further harm to himself. But I also think it’s quite clear we’re never going back to the day where a woozy Colt McCoy can get back on the field and keep playing in Cleveland after being concussed, which happened just last December. As concerning as Week 10 was on the concussion front, it’s important to realize that none of the three quarterbacks injured (or Buffalo running back Fred Jackson, for that matter) returned to action once their concussion symptoms became obvious. That’s progress.
* Gwen Knapp of SportsOnEarth.com said that in light of Alex Smith’s concussion, the NFL is still blurry on when to bench players.
* RantSports.com also said that protecting pro players from concussions needs to be an ever higher priority.
* Reuters wrote about how the NFL’s concussion protocol is taking its toll on teams, like the 49ers and Bears while USA Today’s NFL blog wrote that battered quarterbacks are making the NFL’s concussion rules very public.
* The New York Times wrote about how three NFL teams might be using backup quarterbacks this Sunday after the concussions to Cutler, Smith and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday that Vick’s concussion was “pretty significant.”
* Reuters reported Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson also suffered a concussion very late in the game against the New England Patriots.
* The MIlwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote about how far the league has come in dealing with concussions.
* In the CFL, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that the Calgary Stampeders are denying that quarterback Drew Tate had a concussion last Sunday.
* And on the same Sunday all of these head injuries occurred on the field, The Sporting News published a poll of NFL players in which 56 percent of them said they would hide concussion symptoms to stay on the field — mainly for fear of losing their jobs.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor