This year marks the beginning of a new era in football. With the NFL’s introduction of the concussion protocol players are going to be pulled from games left and right. I think it will be safe to say that just about every game you will see at least one player pulled due to a concussion, or at least to be evaluated for one.
With injury spotters sitting high in a booth calling down to the sidelines to pull guys for check ups, there is no more hiding from the doc. While one or two guys may slip through the cracks, the fact is that the game of football is going to change. Players who typically brush off that bell ringer are being forced to take a breather. While the initiative is overall good for the health of the individual, it may be a contributor to the lack luster performance of the NFL.
Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has had season ending concussions and knows how awful concussions are, I am all for guys being taken care of when it comes to their brains, but the initiative of diagnosing concussions has added an element to the game I don’t think anyone anticipated just yet. With guys being checked or pulled out constantly, having depth on the team is crucial now more than ever. Injuries plague football left and right, but those tend to be obvious instances, typically with clear timelines of return. Concussions can come at any moment, and that moment can lead to that starting spot going to the back up, and maybe for longer than just 2 weeks.
Linemen are going to be subject to this scenario the most. There is no other position on the football field that delivers more blows to the head than a lineman’s. Every snap of the ball a lineman’s head is crashing into another. It may not look bad, or all that hard hitting, but the constant blow to head does a significant amount of damage, especially over time. With linemen getting pulled comes the adverse effect of line deficiency. Prime example is Sunday night’s game, Falcons vs. Packers, Atlanta suffered the loss of their starting right tackle, Ryan Schraeder, to a concussion. Schraeder has been a key element in Atlanta’s offensive line and his absence will certainly show with Ty Sambrailo filling in. While Atlanta managed not to blow their lead, their performance seemed to wither slightly compared to earlier quarters, though that may just be the Atlanta fashion. While Schraeder’s absence from the field cannot be the sole reason for the slow down, it will be something to watch when it comes to Atlanta’s offense.
At this point it is worth taking note of anyone leaving the field due to concussions. These aren’t regular injuries; a player can sustain a concussion one game, take his time off, and on his first game back suffer another concussion, something I believe is more likely than reinjuring a muscle on the first game back. So then at what point does the NFL tell a player they cannot play anymore? How many concussions are too many? And does the NFL have the right to tell them they have to stop? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I am sure we are going to see these issues addressed in the future, and we are all going to notice as more and more guys are heading to that blue tent.