Up and running after surgery
A step in bright direction
Progress seen in concussion policy
FOXBOROUGH - The NFL’s decision to amend its concussion policy received support from a few members of the Patriots yesterday.
In the past, players who were knocked unconscious were ineligible to return to action on the same day. Under the new policy, players with concussion-like symptoms such as memory loss cannot return to the game. A player will not be allowed to return until he is “fully asymptomatic both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician and the independent neurological consultant,’’ according to a league statement.
Tackle Matt Light, who is the Patriots’ union representative, said, “I think they’re doing everything they can to make sure guys’ safety comes first. I think it all comes down to guidelines. You got a system in place to handle these kinds of things, and as long as guys follow the system and do what they need to do, they should be fine.’’
Veteran cornerback Shawn Springs likes the idea of putting the decision in the hands of medical people.
“It takes all the pressure off the player, because you know, players want to play even if it might not be the right thing,’’ Springs said. “Also, I’ll tell you, it gets it out of the coach’s hands. Then you don’t feel like you have to put somebody in jeopardy and stuff like that.
“Guys are getting bigger, stronger, and faster now. We’re just learning more and more about concussions. This is a serious thing. We’ve got to take it serious.
“When I first came in the league, concussions, you know, sometimes you got hit and blacked out or whatever. You just kept playing.’’
Still, other players expressed skepticism over how effective this will be.
Linebacker Adalius Thomas said, “You can’t tell that [there are symptoms] by looking at somebody. I just don’t know how you’re going to determine that. Well, OK, somebody’s running off the field and you can say, ‘It looks like he’s got memory loss’? Are you going to question everybody every time they come off the field? Maybe they’re going off the hit. I don’t know.’’
Thomas, while emphasizing that he’s never been diagnosed with a concussion, believes the onus will remain on the players in situations where there isn’t a huge collision that makes an injury obvious.
“You have to do what’s best for you, and not think about being tough,’’ Thomas said. “Playing football with a concussion doesn’t make you tough, it makes you stupid.
“There’s definitely gray in everything. It depends on the degree of the injury, the status of the player, what time of the year it is. Is it training camp? Are you cutting people? It really depends.
“And as the old saying goes, that’s just the nature of the business. You have to take care of yourself, you have to educate yourself, know what your rights are.’’
One thing players don’t have now that could help is formal classes teaching them about concussion symptoms. Material is available on the subject, but players can choose to ignore it.
But as the issue persists, education will increase, and in that, players feel this is a step in the right direction.
“You’re seeing it become more of an issue, whether it’s the surfaces we’re playing on or whatever it is,’’ Light said. “There are factors all involved there, but there’s definitely more of an emphasis, so there’s guidelines in place and they have a process.
“They’re continuing to do more every year, and it’s been a topic of conversation at our meetings and the owners meetings as well.’’
The vital thing, tight end Benjamin Watson said, is “for the league, the trainers, the players to understand the consequences of concussions and to be open and up front about it.’’
“I was just happy to be back,’’ Green said. “I guess it’s part of it when you have an injury, you really don’t know what time you get back, but you’ve got to see how it goes and how you feel day to day.’’
Green, who is in his eighth season, said the bye week was the best time for the procedure and that the time away didn’t affect his timing when he returned.
The Patriots are tied for 30th with the Bengals in throwing to tight ends, ahead of only the Cardinals. Watson has 22 catches for 321 yards and four touchdowns, while Baker 10 catches for 91 yards and one touchdown.
The numbers are no surprise on a team with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but if opponents figure out how to take away the primary targets, there may be more chances for Watson and Baker.
“Looking forward to Miami, I do see opportunities for the tight ends, as I do every week,’’ Watson said. “We run our routes to get open, and there is one ball and it’s going to go to the open guy, and as tight ends, our goal every week is to block and catch and run routes and get open, so that doesn’t change.’’
The Patriots have targeted their tight ends on 46 passes this season, which comes out to 4.2 chances per game. Seven teams, led by the Bears at 119, have attempted 100 or more passes to tight ends.
Watson, for one, wasn’t complaining about the limited chances he and Baker receive by comparison.
“What we’re asked to do here is what we’re going to do to make sure we win games,’’ Watson said. “The bottom line is winning games around here, and that hasn’t changed since I’ve been here. It’s never been about looking somewhere else and seeing what somebody else is doing, because we feel that we play in a pretty good place.’’
Adam Kilgore of Globe staff contributed to this report; Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.