By DERON SNYDER
“Upon further review …”
We’re accustomed to hearing those words when NFL referees turn on their microphones and announce what they’ve concluded from replay. Calls are confirmed, calls are reversed, and sometimes calls simply stand, when there’s not enough evidence to be more definitive.
During the Minnesota Vikings’ 38-30 victory Sunday at FedEx Field, one “further review” situation wasn’t announced on the field, just in the press box.
Washington wide receiver Ryan Grant was off to a good start in the first quarter. He was targeted three times and caught all three passes for a total of 25 yards. But on his third reception, he was smacked down by Linval Joseph, the Vikings’ 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose tackle who wreaks havoc while flying around like a linebacker.
Grant remained down briefly and left the field. The team announced he was being evaluated for a possible concussion and his return was questionable.
An update was provided 10 minutes later: Grant was cleared and expected to return. But not so fast. Something changed over the next five minutes, because the Skins announced their training staff was conducting further evaluation.
Finally, about a half-hour after his bell was rung, Grant was ruled out for the remainder of the game. Coach Jay Gruden announced afterward that the four-year pro was in concussion protocol.
The NFL process for handling such cases has come under fire recently. Just as some observers feared four years ago – when the league introduced specific guidelines for players who may have been concussed – teams too often have erred on the side of carelessness instead of caution.
When Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was hit hard in the chin during Thursday’s game against Arizona, referee Walt Anderson sent him off the field to be reviewed for a concussion. That meant the team physician and an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant were supposed to perform a complete sideline survey.
Wilson returned after missing just one play – a handoff.
He underwent the full battery of tests when the series ended a couple of plays later, but that misses the point. The NFL is investigating whether the Seahawks violated the concussion protocol, which could result in a fine up to $150,000.
The Indianapolis Colts might want to get their checkbook ready.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett entered the protocol Sunday after a loss against Pittsburgh. The Colts said Brissett exhibited concussion-like symptoms following the game, in which he suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the third quarter. He returned on the next series, infuriating a key figure in conversations about football and brain damage.
“NFL concussion policy is a fraud,” tweeted Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and co-director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. “QB Jacoby Brissett goes back in after showing the clearest concussions signs of the season. Helmet-to-helmet hit, holds head, then goes limp, then needs help up. You don’t need a protocol to hold this player out for the game.”
The Colts said they followed the proper procedure before the QB returned to the field. They said he underwent a concussion evaluation, twice, and he passed both times. “After the game in the locker room for several minutes,” the team said in a statement, “Brissett developed symptoms and is now in the concussion protocol.”
Research shows that players who return to the field immediately after suffering a concussion are at risk for second-impact syndrome if they incur another hit to the head, which can lead to potentially fatal brain damage.
Anecdotal evidence suggests many NFL players don’t hesitate to rejoin the fray as soon as possible, regardless of damage on the last snap and potential consequences on the next.
The Seahawks apparently committed a clear violation by letting Wilson return before checking him thoroughly. There’s no room for such nonchalance in today’s NFL, not with the knowledge we have now compared to 20 years ago.
Conversely, the Colts might’ve followed the letter of the law. Maybe Brissett was totally symptom-free when evaluated. Or maybe the staff missed it.
Either way, it’s a bad look when your quarterback returns after what looks like a concussive hit, only to be placed in the protocol afterward.
The hope is that a player’s significance or position don’t play a role in those decisions, even subliminally. Washington reconsidered Grant’s status and ruled him out. The same standard should apply to, say, Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman.
The NFL would be wise to exercise “further review” when dealing with potential concussions.
If teams are going to be wrong, they should lean toward doubts that the player is alright.