In the first quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers' preseason contest against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night, running back Chris Rainey suffered a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit that caused him to fumble the ball.
The official team announcement at the time, as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly, who was in the press box, was that he had suffered a concussion and a knee injury, but he returned to the field near the end of the second quarter.
That seems to indicate that Rainey had passed the mandatory concussion screenings players undergo after taking big hits. However, Rainey disclosed to the Trib's Ralph N. Paulk on Tuesday that he indeed fell momentarily unconscious from the hit, which is one telltale sign of a concussion. If that is the case, then the Steelers shouldn't have let Rainey back on the field, especially just to continue playing in a preseason game.
It's not surprising that after the hit Rainey begged to return to the field. It's a similar refrain to comments we've heard from players time and time again. Fear of being considered soft, the desire to just continue to compete and the fact that adrenaline can often mask fairly serious pain drive players to want to remain in the game, and that's fine.
But the current precautions to keep concussed or otherwise brain-injured players out of action are in place for a reason, and it's unnerving to think that both Rainey and the Steelers were willing to take such a risk in such a low-importance game.
In Paulk's piece Rainey admitted that after the hit the quality of his play suffered, saying, "I kept slipping on cuts, and I dropped a couple of passes. I didn’t like it. I’m taking all the opportunities I can, and sometimes you’ve got to deal with getting hit."
Yes, getting hit is part of the NFL, as are concussions. But with the rules stating that players are not allowed back in games after losing consciousness, it was extremely dangerous for the Steelers to take that kind of risk with Rainey, regardless of what tests he may have passed.
How someone can lose consciousness from a helmet-to-helmet hit and not be diagnosed with a concussion is beyond me. And, with Rainey having somehow gotten his way back on the field, it is surprising that he wasn't pulled from the game after noticeably losing a few steps following the hit.
Rainey is not in danger of not making the Steelers' 53-man roster, and it is doubtful that his stock with his coaches would have been hurt if he had admitted at the time to being knocked out from the hit.
While the Steelers' decision to put Rainey back in the game would have been questionable, to say the least, in in the regular season, there's absolutely no reason for it in the second game of the preseason. It was dangerous and reckless, and though danger is part of day-to-day life in the NFL, harm reduction is, as well.
Why risk such an important player's health in a less-than-important time of year; and moreover—why ever think it's okay to keep Rainey or any player on the field after being knocked out? The Steelers made the wrong call with Rainey, regardless of whether the concussion tests cleared him or not.