When running back Derrick Ward went down hard along the sidelines during the first quarter of Monday night’s preseason win over the Jets, and when he got up without a limp but still went to the locker room, it looked like he possibly was being checked for a concussion.
As it turn out, that’s what it was. Coach Gary Kubiak confirmed the diagnosis on Tuesday. “Derrick is doing fine today,” Kubiak said. “I think Derrick will be just fine.”
Not as fine was linebacker Cheta Ozougwu (pictured). He spent the night in the hospital.
And Ozougwu, this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, apparently was Mr. Invisible after getting dinged.
“When I watched the film, the opening kickoff [of the] second half I think is when it might’ve happened,” Kubiak said, via quotes distributed by the team. “He kept playing and took a couple more shots, and it really wasn’t until late in the middle of the fourth quarter that he complained.”
So, basically, the guy played for more than a quarter. With a concussion.
“I think he actually said something to [linebacker Darryl] Sharpton,” Kubiak said. “Sharpton came over and told the trainers, and we didn’t like the way he was acting. We evaluated him after the game, didn’t like what was going on and took him to the hospital. He spent the night at the hospital. He was dressing and doing fine when I went to see him and his family a while ago, but obviously took a pretty good shot. It’s going to take some time.”
This incident once again exposes the primary flaw with the league’s procedures for detecting concussions. Players don’t want to be pulled out of games, especially in the preseason, when guys at the bottom of a 90-man roster are trying to make it to the final 53. And so players can’t be counted on to confess to having suffered a concussion.
Of course, that assumes Ozougwu was able to deliberately conceal his symptoms. Far more troubling is the possibility that evidence existed, and that no one noticed (other than Sharpton).
That’s why we continue to believe that the NFL needs to have one or more people in place who do more than wait for obvious evidence of head trauma to emerge. Whether there’s a doctor on the sidelines who must quickly check every player who comes off the field or a doctor in the booth who constantly scans the field for evidence of wooziness or a doctor in the bowels of the stadium who watches a replay of every play in search of evidence that someone took a big hit to the noggin that wasn’t noticed, the fact that Ozougwu’s concussion went undetected for so long proves that, whatever the NFL is doing, it’s not working as well as it could, or should.