Roger Goodell sees progress in Cutler, Vick and Smith leaving games


No one likes to see three starting quarterbacks knocked out of games with concussions on one Sunday. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does see a silver lining.

Goodell said on Mike and Mike in the Morning that he believes progress has been made in the NFL’s ongoing efforts to protect players from brain injuries, and he said the fact that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith were all taken out of games and not allowed to return is a positive sign.

“What we see is progress,” Goodell said. “The changes we’re making are effective, but we’re not declaring victory. There’s still work to be done. We still have to make changes in our game, whether it’s rules or equipment, but the awareness has never been higher. What we saw this past weekend, as unfortunate as it is, having those injuries, they represented progress because those players left the game. They did not return to play. They’re getting proper care. Just maybe a few years ago, that wouldn’t have even occurred.”

Cutler and Smith did not leave the game immediately following their concussions, so it’s clear that more work is needed for getting players evaluated and diagnosed quickly. But Goodell said the league’s emphasis on concussion prevention is working, and it’s even working on defensive players who have learned not to engage in helmet-to-helmet hits.

“Players and coaches adjust when the rules adjust,” Goodell said. “I think they’ve adjusted to the game, I think they’ve adjusted to the changes. It always is difficult through that transition period, and you’re always going to have some people that may slip and make the mistake that we saw on Sunday night [when Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins delivered a helmet-to-chin hit on Cutler, drawing a penalty and a fine].”

Just as sometimes a player like Dobbins will slip, sometimes a player who suffers a concussion will slip through the cracks. And when Cutler and Smith can both stay on the field after suffering concussions, that’s an indication that the concussion has not been enough.