49ers

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' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

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AP

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at the player whose future with the 49ers could be determined by his play in the final six games.

The 49ers are in search of closers.

Protecting a three-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in regulation on Monday night, the 49ers put the four defensive linemen considered their best pass-rushers onto the field to snuff out quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

Defensive end Arik Armstead did not play a snap for the remainder of the game. He had a spot on the sideline as a spectator, along with Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

“I would have liked to see them in there more on the last drive,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They didn't get in there enough.”

Thomas is going nowhere after two seasons. But the 49ers have to make a decision with Armstead, who is completing his fourth NFL season.

Armstead was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In April, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option for the 2019 season on Armstead. As a defensive end selected from picks 11 to 32, the option for Armstead is $9.046 million.

But the money does not become fully guaranteed until the start of the 2019 league year in March. Up to that point, the money is guaranteed for injury only. So the 49ers will have a window of more than two months after this season to decide whether Armstead is worth keeping around as the team’s highest-paid defensive player for next season.

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

Does Armstead fit the 49ers’ defensive scheme? Does he provide the club with an element that general manager John Lynch cannot get at a less-expensive cost in free agency?

Armstead has already played more games (10) than he did in each of the past two seasons, when he was relegated to just eight and six games in 2016 and 2017 due to shoulder and hand injuries.

Armstead has nine sacks in his 40-game NFL career. On Monday, he was used primarily on run downs.

He is tied with Cassius Marsh for second on the 49ers (behind DeForest Buckner) with 26 total quarterback pressures – consisting of three sacks, six hits and 17 hurries on 220 pass-rush snaps this season.

Armstead has yet to find his niche in the 49ers’ scheme on those all-important nickel pass-rush situations. Against the Giants, Sheldon Day and Ronald Blair were the players selected to join Buckner as interior pass rushers during crunch time.

He will get opportunities in the final six games, but Armstead may have to prove to the 49ers he is worthy of that hefty price tag for next season to still have a spot on the team.

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

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AP

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

Close your eyes, erase the nightmares of torn ACLs for Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon and remember the good old days. 

Jim Harbaugh was leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Frank Gore was carrying the rock like he will until the year 2034. And Joe Staley was leading the way with blocks for Gore. 

That trio certainly misses those days, just like you do. 

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

On Tuesday, Harbaugh, now the head coach of the University of Michigan, congratulated Gore, now with the Dolphins. Gore has now rushed for at least 500 yards in 14 straight seasons.

"I would also like to congratulate Frank Gore," Harbaugh said to the media unprompted. "The record he set this past Sunday -- and Frank is my favorite player of all time that I've ever coached. Fourteen years of each year rushing for over 500 yards, passing Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith is incredible. ... All respect to that accomplishment by Frank." 

Gore, who has rushed for 528 yards this season at 35 years old, took notice to the kind words from his old coach. 

Staley spent eight seasons blocking for Gore and the veteran misses his old friend. Time to remember the good times again. 

And now we get to the Spider-Man meme version of this story. 

Can it be 2012 again?

[JOHNSON: Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses previous Colin Kaepernick rumor]