Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals attempted to grab a 3rd-and-long pass from John Skelton, missed the catch and got his face driven into the ground by the stumbling San Francisco 49ers cornerback, Tarell Brown. When he got up from the field picking grass out of his facemask and looking woozy, there were fewer questions about whether it was a dirty play by Brown—it wasn’t—than how much time Fitzgerald would miss due to a possible concussion.
The answer (so far) has turned out to be zero.
That third down wasn’t converted, the Cardinals were forced to punt and the 49ers ran a three-and-out that sandwiched a quarter break. According to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk, that time lapse apparently proved to be enough; Fitzgerald was back on the field for Arizona’s next offensive play.
This is the sort of thing that has all the makings of an ESPN 30-for-30 entry: What if I told you…that an NFL receiver looked rattled after a hit and remained in the game despite receiving a smelling-salt treatment in the huddle?
On Monday Night Football in front of millions of viewers, Fitzgerald was sent back out to take more punishment after what couldn't have been conclusive evidence that he was right after that hit.
His most recent concussion took place over a year ago.
It was surely an unfortunate setback for Best, who still has an outside chance of returning to football in 2012. Yet, as evidenced by Fitzgerald’s appearance following the first quarter, the Cardinals haven’t appeared to grasp the severity of this issue.
Yes, he’s their best player and was their best shot at being competitive in that game.
No, that does not mean they should risk his long-term health by putting him in harm’s way after he had already appeared to be concussed.
Even if Fitzgerald did not suffer a concussion, his situation caused the national NFL fanbase to refocus on the issue at hand. Many other players with less name recognition—and fewer zeroes in their contracts—still have similar predicaments that must be addressed.
If he did in fact suffer a concussion, as at least several among us suspect, the NFL has to do something punitive to deter teams from trotting out their star players following such a traumatic physiological event.