Before Thursday night, the primary flaws with the concussion protocol related to the spotting of potential concussions and the flagging of a player for evaluation. On Thursday night, a new flaw emerged: The failure of a team to properly look at a player who had been sent to the sideline for evaluation.
In the third quarter, with the Seahawks leading 15-10, referee Walt Anderson sent Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to the sideline for an evaluation after he took a helmet from Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby to the jaw. Initially, Wilson went to the medical tent for a concussion evaluation. As the tent was being dropped over him, Wilson got up and left, insisting “I’m fine” and returning to the field.
No one stopped him. Based on the NFL’s policy, someone should have.
“A thorough review is underway,” the NFL said in a statement issued on Friday morning. “According to the policy jointed developed by the NFL and NFLPA, if the Concussion Protocol is not properly followed the club is subject to discipline.”
If the policy is applied as written, a violation will be found, because nothing was done to properly evaluate Wilson during the one play that he missed.
The NFL’s “concussion checklist” requires, for starters, the team physician to review the video of the play. (It’s unclear whether that happened.) Then, the team physician must “at a minimum” ask the player what happened, review the go/no-go signs and symptoms, and ask the so-called Maddock’s questions. Then, if there’s any doubt that the player may have been concussed, a full NFL sideline concussion assessment will occur in the locker room.
(The Maddock’s questions include: 1. At what venue are we today?; 2. Which half is it now?; 3. Who scored last in this match?; 4. What did you play last week?; and 5. Did your team win the last game?)
Here, the evaluation consisted, by all appearances, of Wilson saying, “I’m fine” and returning to the field, with the trip to the medical tent delayed until after the drive had ended. The fact that Wilson delayed the evaluation confirms that the evaluation should have happened not then but when Wilson first went to the sideline.
If a violation is found, the Seahawks will face a maximum fine of $150,000. Also, club employees or medical team members involved in the process will be required to attend remedial education.
Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that Wilson should have been evaluated not after the drive ended but immediately after being sent to the sideline. Fine or not, the rules require much more than what the Seahawks did last night.