Jeff Fisher and Co. continue to be the NFL’s version of an oxymoron after the embattled Rams head coach’s handling of quarterback Case Keenum during Sunday’s loss in Baltimore.
Keenum’s rather obvious late-game concussion and the failure of the Rams or the supposedly independent ATC spotter to remove the injured player from the game has the NFL playing defense on the concussion issue again because Keenum worked through the final two plays concussed.
It’s ironic that his counterpart in the same game, Baltimore signal caller Joe Flacco, also toiled through his final two plays of the afternoon with a far more significant injury, a torn ACL and MCL, and that’s not only lauded by most (including yours truly), it’s not an issue, even though that kind of lack of mobility sure makes you more susceptible to a potential head injury.
That disingenuous dichotomy proves that the critics taking aim at the NFL for its handling of the concussion issue are not really safety advocates at all, just promoters of their particular cause.
However, pointing out hypocrisy is fine in a think-tank environment but the concussion issue is the one that has gained traction with the general public and therefore forced the league to change how it handles its business. The fact that high-profile legal proceedings and a significant financial hit are the fuel for the NFL’s policy shift is also just background noise bathed in a similar hypocrisy.
That said, the fact that the co-chair of the league’s competition committee is the one flouting the new concussion protocols is just not acceptable nor is Fisher’s laughable attempt at plausible deniability.
“(Sunday) was a combination of unusual events that took place,” Fisher alleged. “I saw Case go down, but I didn’t see anything else take place. I didn’t see him struggle to get up. I didn’t see anything from my vantage point on the sideline as far as Case’s slow recovery. The shot that you see where he got up slow that we’ve seen out there, I didn’t see that. I was in the game management mode at that point, less than a minute left. That’s where I was.”
And that’s where the rest of the Rams’ staff was as well?
“Our head trainer (Reggie Scott) did go on the field and he got out there and he spoke to Case and he questioned Case and Case said he felt OK,” Fisher said. “Then our head trainer was instructed to leave the field by the officiating department. What happens with the ATC is that his responsibility is to call down and notify the officiating department if he sees anything. Well because he saw the head trainer on the field, he didn’t feel it was necessary to make the call.”
Other teams have tried the same argument when allowing key contributors to play through what they felt were mild concussions, most notably Philadelphia with star safety Malcolm Jenkins and Minnesota with starting left guard Brandon Fusco. But, those players’ dings were at the point of attack and not obvious to all watching so the plausible deniability does exist.
In Fisher’s case, he put his league and its policy in a very poor light, and it’s hardly the first time the coach has done it. In fact it’s becoming a serial issue.
The NFL is investigating the matter and will be forced to address it at some point.
“Promptly after the conclusion of (Sunday’s) game, we began a review to determine the facts of the injury to St. Louis quarterback Case Keenum and why he was not removed from the game for the necessary evaluation by a team physician or the unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant as required by our concussion protocols,” the league said in a statement. “We are continuing that review (Monday), which includes discussions with the Rams and their medical staff, the ATC spotter (a certified athletic trainer), the game officials, our medical advisors and the NFLPA (NFL Players Association).
“In the meantime, prior to this week’s games, we will reinforce with all involved the need to ensure that these injuries are properly identified and addressed in a manner consistent with our protocols.”
A mandatory conference call for the league’s 32 head athletic trainers was scheduled for Tuesday and an attempt to set up a fall guy (potentially Scott but far more likely the ATC spotter) will likely begin soon thereafter.
The real scapegoat, however, is the guy in charge, Fisher, or perhaps the narrow-minded who believe safety in the NFL begins and ends with head injuries.
After all the only real end game here is that Keenum is fine, Flacco is not.
“Fortunately, Case feels really good,” Fisher said. “He’s in the protocol. He feels good. He’s got a chance to practice this week and obviously play this weekend. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we had an issue, an issue with everybody involved, and we have got to get it straightened out.”
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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