NFL moves on from ATC spotters with team affiliations

Getty Images

The ATC spotter charged with scanning the field for evidence of players in distress now has unprecedented power:  The ability to stop the game and direct the officials to remove a player for further evaluation.

Given the potential for that power to be abused through, for example, the erroneous perception that a quarterback needs to be removed from the game for evaluation on a key play late in the game, the NFL has decided to ensure that the ATC spotters have the appearance of independence.

According to the league office, any ATC spotter who has worked as an athletic trainer at any time for a team or who has been employed by any NFL team within the prior 20 years was relieved of their duties on Friday.

“It was done to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with the new safety rule change regarding the medical timeout that was passed last month,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarth told PFT by email.

While that amounted to only 12 of the 64 spotters, the 12 presumably aren’t happy.  One of the 12, who requested anonymity, expressed strong disagreement with the move.

“It’s sad to me that the NFL overreacts in this way, so as to put people who are much less able to know what’s going on down on the field (since they’ve never been there, as an Athletic Training Intern, ATC, or otherwise) and are going to be calling and stopping play for things that are not necessary,” the now-former ATC spotter said.

The move underscores the unprecedented authority that the ATC spotter will have, along with the league’s ongoing responsibility to ensure that it’s exercised properly.  It also arguably underscores the need for ensuring that potential conflicts of interest be avoided for other league employees with influence on the game — an issue with which Patriots fans have become acutely familiar in the wake of the #DeflateGate scandal.

44 responses to “NFL moves on from ATC spotters with team affiliations

  1. 10 replacements will be former employees of a sports betting company. The other worked for a 2 worked for a loan shark, but aren’t tied to any one team.

  2. 1) What is an ATC spotter?

    2) “It was done to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with the new safety rule change regarding the medical timeout that was passed last month…”

    Sorry about your careers, guys. Say hi to the family for me.

  3. This whole “investigation” is nothing but a sham. The NFL (looking and you Roger and Kensil), are figuring out a way to cover their a$$es, and not apologize to the Patriots for the rogue behavior by NFL employees, and a failed sting operation. Whether you like them or hate them, the Patriots are the only party in this whole episode with any integrity.

  4. “appearance of independence” … ?! Sorta like Supreme Court Justices being independent. These spotters are a disaster waiting to happen…

  5. Just couldn’t post something that had absolutely nothing to do with allegedly deflated balls without adding something about allegedly deflated balls, huh? #HatersGonnaHate #StillChampions

  6. Though, don’t you think people who have been trainers and doctors for NFL teams would have the most experience at spotting football related injuries?

  7. Oh snap…you said “deflategate”, here come the patsy fans in all of their bombastic glory. Sh**! I said it again! LOL, it’s like the old “Bloody Mary” ghost story; say it three times in a mirror and the NE fans will come to get you. LOL!

  8. This medical timeout stuff seems like a good idea but it really isn’t. I was never concerned with a team physician stopping a game for a bogus medical issue. Now that the league itself controls this, I do have a concern that it can be used to manipulate the flow of the game to help ensure the success of a more marketable scenario. The general impression of the league office is one of corruption and placing money above all. It impressions not that big of and jump to think that the legume will manipulate games to more lucrative outcomes, especially when you see that the league office has final say on any replay challenges as well.

  9. ^It is not that big of a jump to think that the league…

    Sometimes I swear this auto correct does stuff on purpose

  10. This spotter policy is a joke. Every guy that gets up a little lame the game gets stopped. They are going to have to double the roster size. And I’m sure the Giants already have their 3rd stringers trained to “wobble” near the end of a game when they have no timeouts.

  11. if you are taken out due to an ATC spotter with under 2 minutes will it still cost you a time out?

    Im guessing yes, but id like to know for sure. You can respond in the comments section Mike, do you have an account? 🙂

  12. This is crazy…just build safer helmets that actually work.

    ProCap worked…but NFL won’t allow them for some “unknown” reason.

    Willie Lanier proved that adding padding to the outside of his helmet worked. After suffering a life threatening concussion as a rookie, a KC Chiefs trainer got the idea of adding additional padding to the outside of Lanier’s helmet to see if it would help.

    Adding padding to the outside of Lanier’s helmet not only allowed Lanier to play 10 more years on his way to the Hall of Fame.

    Adding padding to the outside of Lanier’s helmet worked better than anyone ever figured it would.

    The ProCap worked too…ask Mark Kelso.

    It is time for the players to demand safer helmets.

  13. We all know why the NFL is doing this. It’s because Julian Edelman was accused of not reporting a head injury during the Super Bowl.

    In other words, this is just like the new rule about receivers reporting as ineligible, and just like the “increased emphasis” on defensive holding and illegal contact that was instituted after the Colts complained in 2004.

    In other words, it’s yet another rule that will be used to target the Patriots.

  14. Maybe they should use a real medical professional if this is so important. It doesn’t take the best and brightest to be an ATC, only thing worse is a chiropractor.

  15. Before this season is over, a key player for the opposing team will be forced out of the game in New England.

    Book it.

    Just another opportunity for Pats to cheat.

  16. To make sure it’s fair, the referee should have final authority, just like in boxing. Hold up some fingers, ask the player the time and day.

  17. So instead of people who worked for nfl teams now they simply have people who were just fans of nfl teams during the last 20 years.

    Big difference SMH

  18. derpadeederpjetsyjet says:
    Apr 25, 2015 8:52 AM
    Well, then going by that logic, Mike Kensil should be fired immediately…


    the latest buzz is that this is exactly what’s going to happen when the Wells report comes out…and I think this story is proof that the NFL knows this is coming and they’re trying to get ahead of it.

    I also think my colts are going to get hit with a loss of a draft pick although it doesn’t much matter because grigson would have just traded it for some other team’s trash (again). ugh.

  19. Following that logic, no coach that has worked for an NFL team can coach against another team they’ve worked for. Same for players.

    I get the concept, but this is over-reaction at it’s finest.

    Perhaps a 3-5 year rule would be a good alternative.

  20. Can’t wait for “And this ATC timeout brought to you by United Healthcare.”

    There will eventually be a misdiagnosis of someone by an ATC that will lead to a loss and the outcry will be that they have too much power.

    The only solution, IMHO, to the concussion issue is to make the helmet softer, not harder. Put one of those 1930’s brain buckets on guys and see how many lead with it.

  21. “We all know why the NFL is doing this. It’s because Julian Edelman was accused of not reporting a head injury during the Super Bowl.”

    Even though he passed concussion protocol on the sideline.

    He was crawling for a moment because of a hip injury not a head injury.

  22. I believe this new rule is nothing but a HUGE disaster waiting to happen….way to big of an ability to effect the outcome of a game being instilled in one person….just from reading posts over the span of this off season it’s abundantly clear that bias exists & right wrong or indifferent it an inherent human condition that will always rear it’s ugly head & be even more of a controversy based on both local & national media forums calling decisions made about critical players being removed by said individuls & wether it was necessary or not…..
    This, in MHO, is a VERY SLIPPERY SLOAP the NFL is attempting to climb….HUGE MISTAKE!!

  23. New rule: any commissioner who is buddy buddy with one of the NFL owners needs to be fired immediately.

    If they are so concerned with the appearance of favoritism Goodell should be canned today.

  24. ashevillechief says: Following that logic, no coach that has worked for an NFL team can coach against another team they’ve worked for. Same for players.
    This makes no sense on any level. After a coach changes teams, they control only their new team.

    Injury controllers control all teams, either by working a team’s game, or by working the game of the opponent. They have power to influence any team by removing a player. Coaches cannot take opponents’ players off the field.

    As Kensil (Jets) and Grigson (Rams, Eagles) have shown, former employees can definitely hold grudges and be willing to lie and cheat to lower an opponent who is better than their former team.

  25. laffers says: Couldn’t the league simply have NOT assigned a Spotter to a game where his former employer was playing?
    If your team is the Ravens and playing in the conference championship game, do you want an ex-Steeler employee deciding whether or not to take key Ravens players out of the game?

    Do Giants fans want guys who used to be paid by Jerry Jones deciding which Giants players get to play?

    The only fair way is to find spotters who have not been aligned with another team. It would be even better if they aren’t diehard fans of a team.

    That guy who was whining about being removed as a spotter has it wrong. Just getting the call right isn’t enough. One thing the league doesn’t need is more controversy. The right call has to be made by a guy whose former team does not stand to benefit.

  26. First time ever I have read anything here about padded helmets that worked. The fact that they worked is probably the main reason NFL has not adopted them. Further, with as many officials now on the field, has anyone asked them what might be better? This ATC plan seems very scary if done as described.

  27. Too late! The Pat’s already got over on that one in the SB when their best receiver wasn’t examined as he should have been. Clearly he was concussed. 1 Billion watching saw what happened. Now the NFL is simply trying to cover its tracks for what was another in a long line of last season NFL embarrassments.

  28. It’s like a light went on and the NFL realized that adding more officiating adds more abuse. This doesn’t fix that, and Goodell plods along, but at least someone up there is thinking about the game.

  29. 1 Billion watching saw …


    NE snatch victory from an outsmarted (and then after the INT, an outclassed) SEA team

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.