- Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2011

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - Browns coach Pat Shurmur strongly defended his team’s handling of Colt McCoy after the quarterback sustained a concussion during Thursday night’s loss to Pittsburgh.

Scrambling from pressure, McCoy was laid out by a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers linebacker James Harrison late in the fourth quarter. McCoy left the game for just two plays but returned after being examined and cleared by the Browns' medical staff, which Shurmur said followed the NFL’s exacting guidelines on concussions.

McCoy didn’t begin showing symptoms of a concussion until after the game, Shurmur said.

“If he had shown symptoms of the concussion I wouldn’t have put him back in the game,” Shurmur said. “That was a tough, physical game. Everybody got knocked around. If he had the symptoms he wouldn’t have gone back in _ absolutely not.”

After McCoy was blasted by Harrison, who was fined $50,000 last season for a devastating hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, the QB told trainers he injured his left hand. McCoy was briefly checked on the field before he was taken to Cleveland’s bench, where Shurmur said medical personnel performed mandatory “return-to-play” tests adopted by the league in 2009.

Shurmur is confident the team’s training and medical staff made McCoy answer questions and evaluated him thoroughly before clearing him.

McCoy then approached his coach, who had put in backup Seneca Wallace as the Browns were driving to a possible go-ahead touchdown.

“He said, `Hey, I’m ready to go,’” Shurmur said. “And I was ready to go.”

On his third play after returning, McCoy, whose head was snapped back on the crushing blow from Harrison, threw a costly interception in the end zone.

McCoy was only on the sideline for a few minutes _ 80 seconds in game time, 3:50 of real time _ and Shurmur said he did not display any of the symptoms _ loss of consciousness, confusion, amnesia, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting _ associated with concussions.

Shurmur said he didn’t hesitate in putting McCoy back in knowing his quarterback had been looked at, and because the Browns have had experience in dealing with multiple concussions over the past two years. Both tight end Benjamin Watson and fullback Owen Marecic were kept out of Thursday night’s game after they were diagnosed with concussions.

Shurmur said evaluating head injuries can be tricky, but that he trusts his medical staff.

“You follow the protocol,” he said. “When something like that happens, there’s interaction with the player. If he says, `Hey, I’m fine’ and you go through it and if he’s fine then you move on.”

League spokesman Greg Aiello was asked in an email if the Browns followed proper protocol.

“We will review it with the team,” he responded.

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