NFL mum on in-game evaluation of T.J. Watt
When we had questions last month about the failure to give Panthers tight end Hayden Hurst an in-game concussion evaluation, the league responded. When we had questions this month about the failure to remove Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt from Thursday night’s game with a concussion, the league did not respond.
At least three attempts to get answers to basic questions about Watt have resulted in crickets.
Here’s the original email that we sent, on Friday: “Can I get an explanation of what happened with T.J. Watt last night? What was he checked for and when? Why was he allowed to switch to a tinted visor during the game? What was the purpose of the tinted visor?”
There has been, and at this point likely will be, no response. And that’s fine. But it will only increase suspicions that the process was mishandled from the get go. That Watt should have been removed from the game due to the concussion that would, the next morning, result in Watt landing in the concussion protocol.
Watt ultimately participated in 91 percent of the offensive snaps and four special-teams plays on Thursday night.
A situation like this raises two important questions. First, did the process fail to identify concussion symptoms? The tinted visor points to an eye injury or light sensitivity. Peter King said during Friday’s PFT Live that he had planned to speak to Watt after the game, but that the session was canceled because Watt had a “migraine.” So what caused the migraine?
Second, should certain circumstances get a guy pulled even though specific concussion symptoms have not been noticed? Watt took a massive blow to the face on the first play from scrimmage. It prompted examination of his face, his mouth, his jaw. It resulted in a tinted visor being placed in his helmet. How was that not enough to shut him down?
The late John Madden advocated removing the player from action is there was any doubt that he has suffered one concussion and, in turn, risks having a second one in the same game. It’s almost as if the process, as it was applied on Thursday night, was more about searching for reasons to let Watt keep playing instead of recognizing the obvious evidence that he should have been pulled.
Some will say that, in certain cases, the symptoms start the next day. If so, that’s all the more reason to make decisions based on the force of the impact to the head and the various other non-concussion injuries that happen. Face. Mouth. Jaw. Eye, apparently. At some point, common sense has to overcome whatever checklist the doctors are blindly applying in order to keep a player in a game.