All of us should understand one thing. None of us are going to live to see the day when the National Football League is entirely free of concussions. Given the nature of the sport, that's just not going to happen.
The best the NFL can hope for is to limit the number of concussions that are suffered, and that's a simple matter of being smart about them when they happen. To its credit, the league has taken some major steps forward in this regard.
But the NFL still has work to do. Despite all the work the league has done to limit and to raise awareness of the long-term damage of concussions, there are still cracks in the system.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy managed to slip through one of these cracks last Thursday after taking a bone-jarring helmet-to-helmet hit from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. If you missed it, feel free to watch the video.
It was obvious right away that McCoy wasn't quite right after the hit. But according to the Associated Press, the Browns didn't even check him for a concussion on the sideline. McCoy went right back into the game.
"He didn't display any signs of a concussion," said team president Mike Holmgren, which is about as ridiculous as it gets.
Given the circumstances, it is obvious that the league needs to do more with its concussion protocol. To that end, coaching and broadcasting legend John Madden has a great idea.
Madden opened up about concussions on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Rich Gannon and Adam Schein on Wednesday. His exact words haven't been made available in print yet, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk summarized them nicely:
Madden explained that coaches and teammates tend to assume that, when a doctor and/or trainer is evaluating a player, the doctor and/or trainer know where and how hard the player had been hit. Madden said that the next step in the process of spotting concussions is to ensure that teammates and coaches don’t make that assumption.
Seems simple enough. In fact, it's simple enough to the point where it seems obvious. Feel free to make a joke about Madden being Madden if you like, but he has a point.
The McCoy scenario is a perfect example. When Harrison hit him, you didn't need to be a doctor to know that McCoy had probably suffered a concussion. Harrison hit him directly in the facemask, and McCoy was down for the count for a few seconds. You'd think the Browns would have at least bothered to check.
Lo and behold, Holmgren admitted that the Browns' training and medical staff didn't see the hit because they were busy attending to other players. Had they actually seen the hit, my gut tells me they would have been able to draw the same conclusion that you and I drew while watching from our couches.
If this means that each team has to hire a guy to place on concussion watch, so be it. They can't be blamed for having their hands full, but they need to at least be informed by somebody who is actually watching the action on the field.
Make no mistake, the problem of concussions would still persist. But given how hard the league has worked and how far it has come, there simply cannot be any more Colt McCoys.