On a day when the NFL would have been wise to borrow college football’s overtime procedures, pro football is instead adopting something else from the amateur game.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at the conclusion of the ownership meeting in Chicago that the league will use a medical tent on the sidelines in 2017. The University of Alabama first employed the device in 2015, aimed at preventing fans or media from seeing physical examinations that otherwise would in plain view of opponents, media, and fans. Other programs began to adopt the device in 2016.
While useful for the evaluation of various physical ailments without taking him to the locker room, it may not be an appropriate substitute for a locker-room concussion evaluation, which benefits from the player being removed from the noise and the elements of the playing area, possibly with a chance to remove his shoulder pads and relax a bit, allowing for a meaningful assessment of his cognitive abilities.
The tent will inject a high degree of secrecy to the medical evaluation process, putting the media and fans at the mercy of the accuracy of the in-game updates by hiding what sideline reporters or binocular-equipped journalists in the press box otherwise would be able to observe in plain view. While some teams may still do basic evaluations and manipulations in the open, it makes plenty of sense to use and device available to keep prying eyes from nothing anything more than the bare minimum about a given player’s health.