Before the 2011 season started, the NFL circulated a memo to all teams mandating the removal from games of players who not only have actually been diagnosed with concussions, but also are merely suspected of being concussed.
Under the heading “WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE THEM OUT” (a possibly unintended homage to a classic Ted Nugent tune), the memo provides as follows: “If you have any suspicion about a player being concussed, remove him from the game. Always err on the side of caution. . . . Any player suspected of having a concussion is a ‘NO GO’ and does not return to play in the same game or practice, and cannot return to play at all until he is cleared by both his team physician and an independent neurologist.”
This language makes even more troubling the decision of the Eagles to put quarterback Mike Vick back into Sunday’s win over the Redskins, after he absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit and his helmet hit the ground. Vick was motionless on the ground for several seconds; video of the moment suggests that his body twitched at least once while he was down.
But Vick came back after Vince Young threw an interception on his only pass. According to FOX, the team initially said that Vick came out because he had dirt on his face . . . even though he wears a visor. Team spokesman Derek Boyko later told PFT that Vick also had the wind knocked out of him. (After the game, Vick said he had dirt in his eye, again despite the visor.)
That’s fine, but the Eagles should have had some suspicion (remember, the memo says “any suspicion”) that Vick suffered a concussion, and Vick should have been removed from the game.
Of course, that would have required the Eagles to go with Young or Mike Kafka, making it more likely that the Eagles would have fallen to 1-5, that the Eagles would have missed the playoffs, and that Andy Reid’s time in Philly would have ended.
The Eagles aren’t the only team who should be scrutinized. Lions running back Jahvid Best, who has a history of concussions, hit his head on the ground early and then stayed on the ground early in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Best re-entered the game — even though the team said after the game that Best has another concussion.
We’ve asked the league whether it’s looking into either situation. In light of the plain language of the Ted Nugent memo, the league should be. If it isn’t, then these memos and procedures and rules are nothing more than lip service to Congress or anyone else who could accuse the NFL of not doing enough to protect players from the short-term and long-term consequences of head injuries.