NFL: Injuries down in 2016 season, including concussions

NFL: Injuries down in 2016 season, including concussions

NEW YORK -- Injuries in the NFL decreased this season, including concussions.

Emphasizing that players are doing more self-reporting of head injuries, the league released data Thursday that show overall concussions for the preseason and regular season were down from 275 in 2015 to 244 in 2016. That includes a drop of 16 in regular-season games to 167.

The 275 diagnosed concussions in 2015 were a high over the past five years and were an increase of 69 over the previous season. But the NFL enhanced its detection and examination protocols in that span.

"What we have to account for, too, are the additional protocols involved and the people involved in recognizing the injuries," NFL executive Jeff Miller said. "We have seen a significant culture change on those points" - players themselves or teammates identifying what they suspect could be head injuries.

"The point of all of this ... is the effort to identify the concussions when they happen so players can get the treatment as quickly and comprehensively as they can. That is why we spend so much time on the protocols."

Dr. Robert Heyer, president of the NFL Physicians Society and team internist for the Carolina Panthers, cited the players' willingness to report injuries as making a major difference in the numbers.

"I have been a team physician 22 years, and in the past three years I think we've seen a cultural change regarding concussions," Heyer said. "As result of ongoing education, players are more likely to speak up if they believe they might have a concussion. I know what we are doing is making a difference, but we must continue to do more."

One unaffiliated neurological consultant working games is Dr. Mitchel Berger. His interactions with players on the sidelines have changed, he said.

"When we started the program, there was a significant amount of resistance from the players in terms of just being evaluated," Berger said. "But now, I would say uniformly this past season, none of the players ever resisted. They are much, much more aware of the whole concussion situation and want to actively be engaged in the interview process on the sideline as well as in the locker room. They really are much more aware of and interested in their safety."

There were only 71 reported concussions in the preseason, the lowest in the past five years. San Francisco 49ers owner Dr. John York, chairman of the NFL Owners' Health and Safety Advisory Committee, said his group was concerned about the number of preseason practice concussions compared to the regular season. That number was 42 in 2014, and is down to 26.

"We went and discussed with the individual clubs the number of preseason concussions, and those discussions led to a significant decrease, over 30 percent, between 2014 and 2015, and that number has stabilized in 2016, actually, with the decrease of three," York said. "So we're happy those results shows that the clubs do listen and are very interested in the number of concussions in their players, and that we can have an effect on the culture of the National Football League."

A rule change regarding player safety of moving the ball to the 25-yard line on touchbacks had little effect on diminishing concussions, with a drop from 20 to 17. That information will be presented to the league's competition committee for evaluation, Miller said.

The NFL and players' association worked with the health information research company QuintilesIMS in gathering the data.

The statistics also showed decreases in knee injuries from 2015-2016. Also of note was no conclusive evidence of more injuries on Thursday night games. The injury rate was less than from games played Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

"Injuries don't increase when teams have a shorter preparation time," said Christina Mack, a director with QuintilesIMS.

49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks


49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks

The 49ers hosted two veteran cornerbacks on free-agent visits the past two days and could be signing either Jaylen Watkins or LaDarius Gunter as they wind down their activity on the free-agent market.

“We’re really pleased with what we’ve done,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday. “I’ll never say never. We’ve had a couple of guys visit in the last couple of days. Perhaps we’ll do something there. But for the most part, we’re wrapped up and pleased with what we’ve been able to do.”

The 49ers do not have much depth behind presumptive starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. The team is also likely to add to its depth in the draft.

The 49ers met with Gunter (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) on Thursday. Gunter, 25, started 15 games for the Green Bay Packers in 2016. He recorded 54 tackles and broke up 12 passes. He signed with the Packers in 2015 as an undrafted rookie from Miami.

Gunter was waived at the beginning of last season and the Carolina Panthers claimed him. He appeared in just four games with Carolina, which did not tender him as a restricted free agent.

The 49ers on Wednesday met with Watkins, 26, a versatile defensive back who appeared in 36 games with five starts in four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watkins (5-11, 195) played three snaps on defense and 17 plays on special teams in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. He entered the NFL in 2014 as a fourth-round draft pick from Florida.

Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'


Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'

STANFORD – Free-agent safety Eric Reid chatted with 49ers general manager John Lynch on the sideline, then moved into position onto the field for an up-close view of his brother’s pro day workout Thursday at Stanford University.

Younger brother, Justin, is aiming to be a first-round draft pick like Eric, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Both football futures of the Reid brothers remain uncertain. Justin's fate will be determined on draft day. Eric Reid remains in limbo as an NFL free agent. He has not gotten any action in the first week of free agency, and the 49ers have not made him a contract offer, he said.

But Lynch said the 49ers are closely monitoring Reid’s situation. However, the organization already has three safeties they like: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert.

“Eric played and played well for us last year,” Lynch said. “I think he’s stuck in a safety market that’s been quiet. And I would anticipate things starting to shake for him and we’ll see.

“I’d never say never. I really do think opportunities will start to come his way. We’ve been monitoring it closely and we’ll see how that shakes out.”

Reid, 26, a six-year NFL veteran, said his agent has spoken recently to “a couple of teams,” but no contracts or visits have been proposed.

Reid’s market might be impacted by his up-front role in the protests of racial inequality of the past two seasons. Reid and Colin Kaepernick were the first players to take a knee during the national anthem at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Reid said he would probably not take part in any future protests during the national anthem.

“From the beginning, Colin has been flexible,” Reid said. “He started by sitting. He changed it up. We decided to kneel. And we understand that you got to change with the times. So I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country to improve on.

“I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem, because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”

Reid said he has no regrets. He said he is willing to deal with the consequences of how NFL teams viewed his role in the protests.

“I stand by what I’ve done,” Reid said. “I know why I’ve done it. My faith in God is the reason. I can go to sleep at night confident I did what I was called to do. I’m just gong to stay positive and keep trying to stay in shape and wait and see what happens.

“I said at the end of last season I’m OK no matter what happens.”