The NFL has yet another concussion-protocol controversy. And it will have yet another concussion-protocol investigation.
“A joint review by the NFL and NFLPA of the application of the Concussion Protocol following the tackle of Mr. Newton during the Panthers-Saints game is underway,” the NFL announced on Monday. “According to the policy developed by the NFL and NFLPA, if the Concussion Protocol is not properly followed the club is subject to discipline.”
As learned in the Russell Wilson case, the discipline for a first offense is only a fine of up to $150,000 plus remedial training. Which is a ridiculously small price to pay for keeping a key player available for the key moments of a key game on which the entire season is riding.
Apart from whether the Panthers correctly applied the protocol is the question of whether the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant properly managed and/or supervised the process. It’s one thing for Russell Wilson to slip through the fingers of sideline personnel to get back on the field before he was checked for a concussion; it’s quite another for a player who arguably needs (in light of recent policy changes) a locker-room evaluation to get a perfunctory check in the medical tent when the available visual evidence suggests that something more was happening.
Hovering over the entire situation is the league’s decision, conscious or otherwise, to accept criticism for allowing a player to keep playing over criticism for removing a player from play for 10-15 minutes of real time so that he can be checked in the locker room for a concussion that he doesn’t have under circumstances that could result in a mountain of criticism from those who believe that the outcome of a playoff game was determined by a helicopter doctor who protected a player from himself strongly enough to put his team in unnecessarily jeopardy.