New injury timeout rule would give spotters significant power


The proposal, disclosed Monday by the Competition Committee, to give spotters the ability to pause the action to get a potentially injured player out of a game is long overdue.  But it still remains to be seen whether the new proposal ensures that all players who need to be removed from play actually will be.

It’s obvious that the rule is aimed at getting potentially concussed players out of action, something that the game officials failed to do during a 2014 Thursday night game between San Diego and Denver last year.  As a result, Chargers safety Jahleel Addae remained on the field after suffering a concussion.

As explained at the time, the league office was dismayed by the failure of the team, the game officials, the sideline medical experts, and the ATC spotter in the press box to see what instantly was noticed by those watching the game at 345 Park Avenue.  Addae was in distress and needed to immediately come out of the game.

But it’s one thing for the ATC spotter to contact the game officials and remove a defensive back from the field in the second quarter of a regular-season game.  It’s quite another for the spotter to pull the plug on a key offensive player during crunch time of, say, a key postseason game.

In the most recent Super Bowl, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman seemed to have suffered a concussion, but he was not sent to the sidelines immediately for evaluation.  The situation has been mentioned and discussed but never really explored, in large part because Edelman defers to coach Bill Belichick’s insistence that players never talk about injuries.  On Monday, however, it became clear that the league realizes in situations like Edelman’s, action is needed.

“The Edelman situation was a play we looked at and it was part of the issue,” Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said at a Monday press conference.  “There were a couple of other plays that go back a couple of years that we looked at and really it came a little bit from the health and safety committee just saying, ‘We got the ATC spotters, they’ve got a really good vantage point, they’ve got technology in their booth, they’re communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors and we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going there, why would we miss a player where a player shouldn’t come out?’  And maybe this becomes the fail-safe.  So that was the genesis of it.  We do not expect this to be a rule that gets used a lot.  We expect it to be a fail-safe when people just don’t see this player and the distress the player may have had, the ATC spotter does and stops the game.”

The proposal, which still must receive at least 24 votes from ownership before becoming effective, gives the ATC spotter enormous power, no matter how frequently the rule is used.  The ATC spotter would have the ability to slam on the brakes at any time and to send any player to the sidelines for further evaluation.  While the ATC spotter can’t mandate that the player be taken to the locker room for a full-blown concussion evaluation that could keep the player out of action for 10 to 15 minutes of real time during a key phase of a big game, the ATC spotter would have the authority to get the player off the field for a closer look at a time when the player may actually be perfectly fine.

In certain settings, the ATC spotter may be inclined to tread lightly.  Given the stakes and significance of the circumstances in which Edelman wasn’t removed from play by the Patriots or by game officials, it’s difficult to envision the ATC spotter having the nerve to press the button and instruct the officials to send Edelman to the bench.

It’s even harder to envision the ATC spotter doing that if in that same scenario the potentially injured player is quarterback Tom Brady.

Despite the NFL’s unprecedented sensitivity to head injuries, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will be erring on the side of safety during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl if erring on the side of safety means perhaps erroneously keeping a player who is perfectly fine out of the game.

72 responses to “New injury timeout rule would give spotters significant power

  1. Edelman had a hip injury that was causing him to crawl a moment before getting up after the play.

  2. Remember Russell Wilson getting mauled by clay Mathews in the NFCCG? Seriously why doesn’t anyone bring that up? Why is it always the patriots cheating

  3. Edelman was evaluated for a concussion a play later and passed all protocols.

  4. I still don’t understand how the NFL can’t afford cameras but they can afford to hire multiple injury spotters at every game.

    I would assume any qualified injury spotter would have to be a licensed medical professional.. And last time I chexked, those guys don’t work for minimum wage.

  5. So some guy in a booth has the unilateral right to pull a player out of a game?

    Um… no thanks.

  6. Also like the game wasn’t already fixed, imagine all the future controversies over these spotters pulling star players out of a game when they are trying to comeback or allowing the other team to comeback.

  7. If Brady gets injured, they’d stop the game and do the concussion tests right on the field.

  8. Winning will always matter more than safety, anyway. And Julian Edelman wouldn’t likely have wanted to step out of the game at that point.

    Officials’ consistency in throwing flags for helmet-to-helmet contact is a joke, and wanes as the season goes on, anyway.

  9. Of course the situation would be different for Tom Brady… Just like the tuck rule, certain hits to a qb, and the specific pressure of his balls.

    Is a man so great if the rules have to be rewritten so that he can shine?

  10. Of course Edelman was concussed. But the Patriots do what they want and the league turns a blind eye.

  11. Very STUPID proposal…. I really hope it is not passed
    This is an extreemley slippery slope the NFL is attempting to climb…
    How do we know the spotter is not biased in some way… This could directly effect football games outcomes!!!
    There are already enough checks & balances in place to oversee this process!!!

  12. I see all kinds of landmines with this idea. Much longer game times and SIGNIFICANT possibilities for parties other than the players to decide the outcomes of games being among the two biggest.

  13. How to put this theory into practice is definitely something that needs to be closely examined. Football is still a game fueled by testosterone and a warrior mentality, so players aren’t going to volunteer to come out. And all the fans wearing their tin foil hats will scream bloody murder when the spotter sends one of their team’s players out of the game, insisting the NFL instructed the spotter to boot players on their team so the other team will win. And their will be that unspoken pressure to let things slide in bigger games. It’s not an enviable position to be in.

  14. More importantly, why is there a beach towel strapped to Edelman’s belt? What about a towel dangling from their pants do football players find so appealing? If you wear gloves, you don’t need a towel.

  15. Edelman was checked by a sideline doctor who was not affiliated with the Patriots. And he sure didn’t look concussed while waving that trophy around.

  16. Please, the first time this rule affects the outcome of a game (and it WILL), you’ll be all over Goodell for “ruining” football yet again.

  17. am I the only 1 who saw the julian play? he got hit barely went down and r an 15 more yards be for being tackle again and got up and made another great play down field in traffic

  18. “…NFL’s unprecedented sensitivity to head injuries…”

    Really? The NFL gets SUED left and right by players due to head injuries. THAT is why they are sensitive to head injuries.

    PFT seems to advocate that the spotter idea sucks. I couldn’t disagree more. Players will CHOOSE to hide their injury so that they can continue playing so they can reach contract escalators, bonuses, etc. Then the same player will retire and sue the NFL for not doing enough to prevent his injury.

    Players CANNOT have it every way they want it. There MUST be legal protections for the employers.

    If a player knowingly hides his concussion, then screw him, he gets what he deserves and the NFL should NOT be liable.

  19. Edelman was checked and found not to be concussed.

    Under the new proposal the spotter could have taken him out of the game and he would not have caught the touchdown pass.

    I can see it now Packers playing Patriots, Rodgers gets hit in the red zone and is forced to come out of the game in the waning moments and Packers fail to score. Rodgers is found to be healthy.

    All the Patriots haters cry conspiricy!!

  20. If they do this they need to include a rule that you cannot change personnel during the stoppage, otherwise it will become another coaching tool to stop the clock late in games.

  21. I’d like to see a rule change where if a player is held out due to a concussion suffered by a shot to the head (as Edelman’s was), the guy who made the tackle sits out until that player is able to return. It seems unfair that DBs can pick off WRs and force them out of games with “legal” but targeted hits while remaining in the game.

  22. No worries BeliCHEAT is on his boat thinking of new ways to skirt every rule in the book.

    **** deal with it.

  23. “if erring on the side of safety means perhaps erroneously keeping a player who is perfectly fine out of the game.”

    This x100

    I get that we’ve become a babysitters and bubble wrap nation and we base most of are laws today on protecting Darwin award winners… But

    Whatever happened to the idea of personal responsibility and accepting that some things are inherently dangerous and do in fact have consequences???

    Nevermind, lets just go back to nerfing the whole world and then act shocked and outraged that bad things can still potentially happen…

  24. Are we going to get to the point where if someone’s helmet is hit the game get’s stopped and the player has to exit?

    In Edelman’s case he didn’t come off, but he was cleared of a concussion afterward, so it ended up being the right call. He didn’t suffer a concussion. Also, in re-watching the game, he took a hard hit and kept running, but there was no wooziness or anything like that afterward that made it seemed like he was concussed. Only the hit.

    Are they going to check a boxer after every punch? At some point the game has inherent dangers that the players accept. You can’t take them all away without turning it into flag football.

    Go look at Rugby injuries at the highest level. They are terrible too. Many spinal injuries.

  25. head injuries are not the NFL’s fault players are aware of the impact the game has on them just ask Chris Borland the media has made theconcussion problem such a big dealand then when the NFL tries to bow out n make changes to established rules the media attacks them

  26. NFL owners make billions, head coaches make millions..hell the players make millions, none of them will actually care til the well runs dry, and neither do I.. Have at it, beat yourselves into oblivion.. Just gimme football on Sunday… I could care less about any players future or potential lawsuits against the owners. They BOTH knew what they signed up for… And are reaping the rewards.. Seems fair to me.

  27. I would prefer to just play flag football before inserting another official to determine a games outcome. If you take Julian out of that drive there a good chance the Pats don’t score on that drive.

    These are grown men we are talking about here not 12 yr olds. If they want to come out of the game they will tell you. If a coach does anything against a player wanting to be taken out you fine\fire the coach.

    Let the men play the game of football.

  28. You just know that Bill Belichick is already providing acting lessons for those moments when the Patri*ts are in dire need of an extra timeout.

  29. Stage 1 of the fix scheme – ambiguous rules
    Stage 2 of the fix scheme – “spotters” to take players out at their discretion
    Stage 3 – nfl=WWF

  30. If that much power is to be given to an individual, the only correct thing to do from a competition perspective would be to put the game on hold while the player is evaluated.

    Given that this takes a few minutes, I don’t see that happening. A rule like this is a potential disaster with very little upside. Best case scenario, you get an already-damaged player off the field after he’s been injured.

    One thing that gets lost in all this concussion protocol talk is that the protocols ONLY go into effect AFTER the injury.

    We need a way to get injured players out of the game, absolutely. I’m just not sure that unilateral power in the hands of one person that can dramatically affect the outcome of games is the solution.

  31. Is a man so great if the rules have to be rewritten so that he can shine?


    On the contrary. 🙂

    Seems like the rules are always rewritten because the other teams simply are inferior to the World Champions in every aspect of the game. And instead of looking for ways to get better to compete with the Patriots… they take the easy way out and get the rules changed.

    Can’t adapt to the way the World Champion Patriots substitute players on the fly? Change the rules. Don’t like how the World Champion Patriots touch your wussy receivers? Change the rules.

    And so on. 🙂

  32. And yet no one cares why the officials screwed up by not giving Chancellor a 15 yard helmet- to-helmet penalty on that play.

  33. Let me get this straight: some “spotters” in the booth will be allowed to have the game paused and a player removed for testing, right? So, does this encourage or discourage a defensive player from putting a massive, even illegal hit on an offensive player? Maybe he gets a penalty, maybe not. But, wouldn’t there now be more incentive to make that hit, especially at a key point in the game where forcing a critical player off the field could make a big difference?

  34. Edelman wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion but he referred to Seattle as “St Louis” after the game. Something wasn’t right with him.

  35. This will be great for conspiracy theories. Any time a player gets pulled by the spotter and that team loses we’ll see hundreds of posts whining about how the league “cheated” so a given team would win.

    What a terrible idea.

  36. I can just imagine one of these “spotters” putting a big bet on say the Packers opponent… and then making sure Aaron Rodgers gets pulled out of the game in a big spot if someone breathes on him too much.

    Still think this is a good idea?

  37. So basically every two plays someone will need assistance in order to slow down up tempo offenses.

    cough cough NYG cough cough.

  38. If there’s a helmet to helmet collision, shouldn’t BOTH players get checked? Kam Chancellor anyone? Of course no one wants to bring that up. Doesn’t fit the Patriot haters agenda.

    JE got cleared and scored on the NEXT series. Amendola scored 2 plays later on that drive. Suck it haters.

    BTW, this rule gives way to much power to someone 5 stories up in a booth away from the player.


  39. Colt McCoy… The video of McCoy walking back to the huddle after being concussed is painful to watch. Everyone in the TV audience knew that McCoy should be removed from the game.

    The question is, will this new process be able to detect that same situation before the next play starts? If not, then this is well-intended but ineffective.

  40. So Edleman played with a concussion? Imagine what the score would have been if he wasnt concussed?

  41. Yeah, this is a terriffic idea… how about putting an unbiased league employee like Mike Kensil in charge!

  42. Leave Edelman out of this! That was an amazing play that should be celebrated. You can’t assume he was concussed. Imagine the controversy when an independent spotter removes a star player on the last drive of a Super Bowl against his and the teams will only to find out that no concussion was sustained. Leave these matters to the players and their teams. This is getting way out of control.

  43. Shocked and amazed that a Patriot is the emphasis of a rule change, SHOCKED. Meanwhile The Patriots make a valid recommendation to add permanent cameras to goal lines and side lines and that’s just too expensive for the billionaire leaches. First replay run thru a central league office now dudes hiding in a box high above want to have the power to pull a guy from the game. Yeah, that won’t open Pandora’s box to controversy time and time again. If the league doesn’t trust the officials on the field then just officiate all games from the comfort of the league offices in NYC. Every day I think it can’t get worse, but it does.

  44. Why do they have to keep changing rules when the pats win? I just don’t understand it.

  45. You imply that it was so obvious in the case of Edelman.

    You ignore his bad hip

    You ignore that no penalty was called. If you care about safety, write twenty posts questioning why the refs missed chancellors penalty.

  46. How about a rule that if a player is “injured” and has to come out he can’t come back in for the remainder of the series? This will cut out the fake injuries to stop the clock

  47. They’ll need to deploy a whole team of spotters for the GreenBay Glassjaws. Their games are going to take 6 hours with all the stoppage of play.

  48. I listened to all of the released audio from the Super Bowl because it was awesome. You can hear Edleman say immediately after the hit “what a hit?!” He was completely aware of the situation and himself. Unlike when Big Ben got hit in the head and entered the game and threw the ball to a defensive back who had no one in his zone

  49. Out of the greatest intentions, some of the most stupid rules are born. We all know something stupid will come of this. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when.

  50. Love how Seahawks player had to be taken out of the Super Bowl but Pats injured player gets to keep on playing. Either take out both or none as the Seahawk player wasn’t allowed to return to the game and Edelman didn’t even miss a play what a joke. It’s not up to player to decide to come out as if he is injured he’s not thinking straight so stop saying Edelman wouldn’t wanted to or chose to come out his wobbly mountain man shoulda been taken out as per rules but again rules change or are tweaked again and again for B&B

  51. So the only way to beat the Patriots is whine that their player was too hurt and should have been in there to score the GW TD?

    Sounds like sour grapes.

    He stayed in and it was a gut-wrenching, all-time great drive by JE11 and TB12.

    Just admire the toughness.

    (or should we just put flags on their belts and tell the best players to come out of the game at the most critical moments of their careers.)

    If you want to win, then beat the best players ON the field. Dont whine that they werent removed from the game.

  52. 2balls1stick says:
    “Love how Seahawks player had to be taken out of the Super Bowl but Pats injured player gets to keep on playing. Either take out both or none as the Seahawk player wasn’t allowed to return to the game and Edelman didn’t even miss a play what a joke. It’s not up to player to decide to come out as if he is injured he’s not thinking straight so stop saying Edelman wouldn’t wanted to or chose to come out his wobbly mountain man shoulda been taken out as per rules but again rules change or are tweaked again and again for B&B”
    What in the name of Zeus are you talking about? Avril toppled over like he’d been shot and then got helped to the sideline. Is there any evidence at all that Edelman had a concussion? He moved awkwardly at the end of the play, but he was also playing with a bad hip injury. He also headed right back to the huddle. Are we assuming he had a concussion because he took a big hit? More to the point, how is this new rule at all related to Brady and Belichick (except in your mind)?

  53. What exactly is the point of the spotter? There are 7 officials on the field within a few yards of the players. And at the time these injury stoppages would occur all 7 of them except for maybe the guy spotting the ball are just standing there waiting for the next play. Surely, they’d be fully capable of noticing if a guy was shaken up enough to warrant a stoppage.

  54. It’s an inherently dangerous sport.

    It comes down to what’s most important: the business or the people?

  55. hairpie2 says:
    Mar 24, 2015 10:53 AM
    Yeah, this is a terriffic idea… how about putting an unbiased league employee like Mike Kensil in charge!
    Goodell has already set up Kensil to take the fall for “deflategate” or “stingate”.

    “Let’s just short circuit this a little bit,” Goodell said regarding the perception that Goodell knew about the situation and wanted to catch the Patriots in the act. “I’m not going to get into what we knew and when we knew it because that’s part of what he’s investigating. . . . I can tell you that I was not personally aware of it until after the game.”

    Do you notice he starts talking about what WE knew when WE knew it and then shifts to I was not personally involved. That tells you that Roger knows he has problems in his office and Mike Kensil is one of many.

  56. As usual… can’t beat the World Champions fair and square so change the rules to suit you. 🙂

    It’s SO NICE being on top of the mountain smiling down at all the inferior fans and their inferior teams beneath us.

  57. Does this include friendly fire? Pretty sure on the Pats first TD, Maxwell and Chancellor obliterated each other trying to hit LaFell. They should have both been cleared prior to getting back on the field.

  58. The first time we see a player pop right back up after a head injury stopped a play going against them, you will hear some serious blow back from the fans.

  59. Agree call it, time out as commercial time when needed. Games at the stadium are getting tedious to watch. I was appalled by the stoppage. At home we record, don’t watch live, usually starting to watch 30 mins in, so fast forward saves the game. Like in baseball one tends to get bored, three hour games make them unwatchable with endless commercials in MLB games.

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