In an admission that may rile up the league office, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree said Thursday that he was temporarily blinded by a hit from Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith late in their Super Bowl XLVII matchup.
According to an ESPN report, the star receiver said the hit happened on the 49ers' last offensive possession.
Down 34-29 and deep in Baltimore territory, Crabtree was the target of a third-down pass from Colin Kaepernick near the goal line and was hit hard as the ball fell for an incompletion.
Speaking with NFL Network about the play, Crabtree acknowledged the collision left him temporarily blind.
"When the guy hit me, he hit me all in the face," Crabtree said (per ESPN). "I'm not tripping. I'm not one to whine about nothing, but he hit me all in the face, and I couldn't really see after he hit me."
Though his vision "snapped back," Crabtree did not exit the game or seek counsel from San Francisco trainers.
He stayed in the game and was again Kaepernick's target on fourth down, another incompletion that came under widespread scrutiny, due to a possible missed holding/pass interference call on Smith.
That incompletion gave the Ravens the ball back and helped spur their 34-31 victory over the 49ers.
While it's unclear whether Crabtree was affected on that fourth-down play, the league office will undoubtedly be more interested in why he did not seek medical attention.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made player safety one of his top priorities since taking office.
The league has levied increasing fines for hits to the head on defenseless receivers and quarterbacks and, this March, adopted a rule banning running backs from leading with the crown of their helmets.
Additionally, every player is expected to undergo on-field concussion tests any time he feels any head-related injury. Whether Crabtree reported his symptoms to the 49ers is unclear—he told NFL Network that it wasn't a concussion.
Nevertheless, Goodell and the league office may be asking questions in the coming days.
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