Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is in the concussion protocol. He’s listed as questionable with a concussion.
So does Stafford definitely have a concussion?
“I can’t answer that,” coach Sean McVay told reporters on Friday. “He’s going through that protocol.”
There was no followup question as to whether, for example, McVay “can’t answer” because he won’t answer, because he doesn’t know, or because he thinks the relevant rules prevent him from saying so.
Regardless, Stafford is clearly in the return-to-play version of the concussion protocol. It’s a five-step process that allows gradually more activity, as long as the player shows improvement along the way. Ultimately, clearance to play is made by the Independent Neurological Consultant.
Based on McVay’s comments from Friday, and given that Stafford was limited in practice on Friday, Stafford is in step three or four. He could, in theory, elevate to step five today (“full participation in practice and contact without restriction”) so that the INC can decide whether Stafford tolerates such activity without a recurrence of symptoms.
That’s the purpose of the steps. To add more activity in order to see whether the player does or doesn’t have a recurrence of symptoms. That’s why steps aren’t skipped. It’s a deliberately methodical process.
In an era that has seen players routinely receive clearance in seven days (the NFL said earlier this year that the median is nine days), Stafford still could be cleared by Sunday. It’s up to the INC.
McVay made it clear on Friday that the Rams listed Stafford as questionable in order to leave the door open as to the possibility that he’ll play. As McVay also said Friday, it’s an answer that could come as late as 90 minutes before kickoff, when teams official deactivate players from the 53-man roster who won’t be in uniform for the game.
And so a situation that started in vague in mysterious fashion will stay that way, possibly until late Sunday morning, L.A. time.