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Roger Goodell: NFL is prepared to “make a change or two” to the concussion protocol

NFL: International Series Fan Forum

Oct 8, 2022; London, United Kingdom; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reacts during the NFL International Fan Forum at Landmark Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Players Association wants immediate changes to the concussion protocol. The NFL apparently is willing to do so, but perhaps not on the same timetable as the union.

At a fan forum in London, Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about “recent events” regarding head injuries. Goodell acknowledged the obvious -- that there is “more chatter now” about head trauma.

“We understand some of that chatter, but the reality is the protocols are really important,” Goodell said, via the Associated Press. “We follow that strictly. We see no indication that that didn’t happen in this case. There’s an ongoing investigation. We’re really focused on doing that. But we’re also prepared to make a change or two in the protocols because we think we can actually add another element that would make it even safer.”

Buried in that comment is the league’s position on the decision to allow Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to return to game action on September 25, after exhibiting gross motor instability following a head injury. Per Goodell, the league “see[s] no indication” of a failure to “strictly” follow the protocol.

The protocol is expected to be revise to remove the exception that allows players to return if instability is determined to not have a neurological cause.

The AP article also mentions Sunday night’s incident involving Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate. However, there’s no indication that Goodell addressed that specific situation, in which Brate suffered a blow to the head, exited the game briefly, and returned without receiving a concussion evaluation.

The league contends that the spotters saw Brate absorb a blow to the shoulder; the video shows otherwise. The NFLPA nevertheless backed the league’s conclusion. The end result was that the issue went away quickly, with minimal attention being given to the fact that the league’s protocols failed in Brate’s case to keep him from returning to play with a head injury.

And that’s understandable. If parents of high-school players realize that the league’s protocols still can’t ensure the highest possibly standard of safety during the first prime-time game after Tua was removed on a stretcher after suffering head and neck injuries, why should they think that players at lower levels of the sport will receive any greater protection?