The NFL Players Association opposes commissioner Roger Goodell’s call for players to tell their teams’ medical staffs if they think a teammate shows symptoms of a concussion, saying that is not an adequate solution.
“If every player were a medical doctor that could recognize symptoms of concussions, then that would be a great idea,” NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said in a telephone interview Friday.
“I hope that that league — instead of asking players to police each other — would consider calling on team medical staffs and independent doctors to police the situation as closely,” Atallah said.
During interviews of 160 NFL players conducted by The Associated Press from Nov. 2-15, 30 replied they have hidden or played down the effects of a concussion. Half said they’ve had at least one concussion playing football.
Told of those findings this week, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to the AP that Goodell recently spoke to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith “about the importance of players reporting head injuries no matter how minor they believe they might be. The commissioner said that process needs to include players observing and reporting to the team medical staff when a teammate shows symptoms of a concussion.”
Aiello said Friday the league is considering “a number of steps” related to player health and safety. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy has been picked to lead a new NFL advisory forum that will meet with players about various issues, including concussions.
“It’s not that player safety is not a priority of ours,” Atallah said, “it’s that (Goodell’s) suggestion is not adequate.”
Reaction was mixed among a handful of players asked about Goodell’s idea.
Goodell, New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk said, “is looking out for the safety of the players, and you can’t knock that at all.”
Washington Redskins fullback Mike Sellers’ take: “We ain’t no snitches over here! … That is not happening.”
Pro Football Hall of Fame member Gary Zimmerman said: “I don’t like that idea at all. What if you’re competing against somebody and you rat them out? … It should be your personal responsibility and your decision.”
Other current players, such as Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and New York Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody, said players already keep an eye on teammates.
“It’s your personal responsibility to look out for your teammates, just because there’s life after football and you want to live a normal life,” Bailey said. “It might help because guys don’t want to be in that training room, guys don’t want to sit out and miss games. Guys do push it as much as they can without realizing the damage they’re causing to their brain. They might not realize they’re impaired; they might just be in denial.”
Green Bay linebacker Aaron Kampman said he’s pointed out teammates’ issues to Packers staff in the past.
“Guys are going to naturally look out for each other,” he said. “I see that now. I see a guy come off, and he’s woozy, I say, ’This guy here.”’
Kampman is expected to return to action Sunday against San Francisco after missing last weekend’s victory over Dallas because of a concussion. He took a blow to the head on the fourth play of the Packers’ loss at Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, but didn’t come out of the game until the fourth quarter. Kampman put the onus on himself for not seeking medical attention sooner.
Dr. Joseph Maroon, Pittsburgh’s team doctor and a member of an NFL committee on concussions, said members of the Steelers “not infrequently … will say, ’You should look at him’ or ’You should look at that.’ That’s being done now. They realize that an individual who’s not processing information properly isn’t going to benefit the team.”
As a former player and head coach in the NFL, Herm Edwards has seen concussions up close. He likes Goodell’s position.
“To me, that’s not snitching,” said Edwards, now an ESPN analyst. “That’s protecting your teammate.”
AP Sports Writers Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wis., Jon Krawczynski in Eden Prairie, Minn., Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., Dennis Waszak Jr. in Florham Park, N.J., Howard Ulman in Foxborough, Mass., Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., and Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this story.