Today’s reminder of how much attitudes toward concussions have changed in the NFL comes from former Giants tight end Mark Bavarro, who offered up a memory of a teammate who continued playing and won a game after suffering a concussion.
Matt Bahr, the Giants kicker who led his team to Super Bowl XXV with five field goals in a 15-13 victory in the NFC Championship Game after the 1990 season, made his 42-yarder as time expired after suffering a concussion earlier in the game. Bavarro recalled that Bahr wasn’t all there as he staggered onto the field for the game’s final play.
“Matt Bahr, when he kicked the winning field goal against San Francisco in 1990, I don’t think he knew where he was,” Bavaro told reporters today, via the Star-Ledger. “He’d tackled somebody on a kickoff return earlier in the game and he was kind of out of it. [Giants long snapper] Steve DeOssie had to kind of, actually, guide him on the field and line it up. But you know, that was regular stuff back then. Matt was a great guy, a tough guy, and we certainly appreciated him coming out and doing that for us. But I don’t think that stuff happens today.”
DeOssie has told a similar story in the past, including for the book The Most Memorable Games in Giants History: The Oral History of a Legendary Team.
“Matt had had to make a tackle or two in that game on kickoffs and his head was ringing,” DeOssie said. “He might’ve had a concussion or something. He wasn’t completely of sound mind. When they called the timeout to kind of slow him down at the last field goal, I came up to him and he was a little woozy because of the kickoff tackle that he made.”
In 1990, the idea that a player would be held out — with the Super Bowl on the line — just because of a concussion was unthinkable. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the need to change the culture, he’s talking about some of the great moments in NFL history like Bahr’s kick, one that under today’s concussion standards he never would have been allowed to make.