Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Brissett shows limits of NFL concussion protocol

Alex Reimer
November 13, 2017 - 3:44 pm

Old friend Jacoby Brissett showed the limits of the NFL concussion protocol Sunday. The Colts quarterback took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers linebacker Stephen Tuitt and spent several seconds laying motionless on the turf afterwards. It seemed likely he would head into concussion protocol and be forced to miss some time. Instead, he didn’t sit for a single offensive play, returning after the Steelers went three-and-out.

Brissett played poorly for the rest of the contest. On his first four plays back, he was sacked twice and threw an interception. The Colts placed Brissett in concussion protocol after the game, but insist he passed two neurological evaluations earlier. Apparently, the symptoms only showed up once the game ended.

Brissett’s situation is analogous to what happened with Russell Wilson on “Thursday Night Football.” The NFL determined Seattle violated the concussion protocol, because it allowed him to return without going to the locker room and bring cleared by a team doctor. Wilson absorbed a brutal hit to the chin from Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, but replaced backup Austin Davis after just one play.

The NFL has a responsible concussion protocol on paper. It says a player must be removed “immediately” from the field if a possible concussion is identified. The player then must be escorted into the locker room for a “full assessment” with the team physician and an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant. The player can’t return if a concussion is detected.

There are also two independent medical spotters who can intervene to stop a game if they think a player should be removed. 

It’s apparent the Seahawks and Colts didn’t follow these procedures this week. And therein lies the inherent problem with any written policy. It only works if it’s followed. 

Teams don’t want their stars, especially quarterbacks, to miss any time due to injury. Players usually want to stay on the field, too. The NFL is counting on both parties to act against their short-term interests.

It’s an unrealistic request. The Colts and Brissett offered additional evidence of that unfortunate truth on Sunday.