Lost in the chatter after the Bears-Packers game regarding a quarterback who didn’t play after suffering a knee injury is the question of whether a quarterback in the same game played with a head injury.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a helmet to the jaw from Bears defensive end Julius Peppers with less than 12 minutes in the fourth quarter and the Packers leading 14-7. On the field, much of the discussion in the aftermath of the play and the personal foul it drew focused on whether Peppers deserved to be flagged. Obviously, he did. The reverse angle shows Rodgers’ head getting rattled by the placement of Peppers’ helmet into Aaron’s ear hole.
It was less clear to us whether Rodgers was exhibiting the obvious symptoms of someone who has suffered a concussion. Since then, it’s been tempting to wonder whether Rodgers willed himself to get up and hold it together after taking a hit that, given his two concussions during the regular season, easily could have resulted in a third.
Shawn Doherty of Madison.com’s The Capital Times delves into question of whether Rodgers suffered a concussion, and whether the Packers failed to attempt to diagnose it. In this regard, Doherty writes that Rodgers looked “woozy and wobbling about with dazed eyes.” If anything, Rodgers looked to us like, at worst, a guy who was fighting to not seem woozy and wobbly, since he realized that if he seemed woozy and wobbly he’d be evaluated for yet another concussion — and possibly yanked from the game.
We agree with Doherty regarding the fact that FOX didn’t say much (if anything) about the possibility that Rodgers had suffered another concussion. Joe Buck pointed out that Rodgers has had two concussions during the season, Troy Aikman said that Rodgers was “blown up” on the play, but there was never any talk about whether the hit gave Rodgers a new concussion.
And if FOX cameras captured images of Rodgers being checked out after that drive by doctors, those images never made their way from the truck to the satellite. (Possibly because of all the “Disinterested Jay” images that were being sent through the pipes.)
Regardless of whether Rodgers suffered a concussion, this situation highlights the need for having a “safety official” in the booth who has the job of ensuring not that players are prevented from playing once they’ve been diagnosed as having concussions, but that they are prevented from playing until they’ve been cleared, if they’ve taken a blow to the head that the safety official believes requires an examination.
Such an approach would create a greater incentive for guys like Peppers to pop Rodgers. As a result, greater penalties and fines and suspensions would have to be imposed to keep defenses from deliberately trying to inflict a blow to the head and thus knock the starting quarterback out of a game.
Still, if the league wants to give credibility to its approach to concussions, a guy who has taken a big hit to the head shouldn’t be allowed to bluff his way around the medical staff, heroic as such behavior might be regarded — especially in a game that has raised questions regarding whether the other starting quarterback did enough to fight the decision to pull him from the game with a knee injury.
Not every concussion causes a player to lose his ability to walk and talk and otherwise act like a guy who hasn’t suffered a concussion. In Rodgers’ case, he was smart enough before the play to know that he needs to not look like a guy who has suffered a concussion if he wants to keep playing in the biggest game of his life — and it’s possible that he was still smart enough to know that after the play, even if he indeed suffered a concussion from the crushing hit he received.
The question now becomes whether Rodgers is feeling any effects of the hit, like headaches or dizziness since Sunday night, and whether he’ll say anything to anyone about it.
If he is, we don’t expect him to say a word. The stakes are too high, and the stage is too big. Besides, we fully support the ability of grown men to embrace known risks. If we were in Rodger’s shoes and if our ability to quarterback the Packers in a Super Bowl potentially would be lost by talking about the headaches and dizziness we were suffering, we wouldn’t say a word about it.
And we suspect that most of you reading this would handle it the same way.