Cutler, for example, stayed in the game seven plays after absorbing a significant hit and wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion until halftime. Shanahan coached Cutler three seasons with the Denver Broncos and noted his reluctance to leave games coupled with being difficult to read after hard hits. A swirl of blame that Cutler didn’t exit soon enough followed in Chicago.
“I’ve never had so many people diagnose a condition on television in my life sometimes it’s a bit of ready, fire, aim,” Herring said. “But all this attention is good.”
Before the season, players complete baseline testing including balance, thinking skills and concentration. After a possible head injury, the Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool (known as SCAT) is administered and matched against the baseline. The player isn’t allowed to return if the difference between tests is too great.
A 2011 NFL memo directs teams to remove players from games if there is “any” suspicion of a concussion.
“Always err on the side of caution,” the memo says.
A red box on the assessment provides six “no-go” symptoms such as confusion and amnesia which result in immediate disqualification.
If a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he is escorted to the locker room and — under the John Madden rule, named after the man who suggested it in 2011 — isn’t allowed to return to the field.
Media interviews aren’t allowed with a concussed player until he has been cleared to return, a process that takes, at minimum, a couple of days. He must have normal neurological and neuropsychological tests, pass exertion tests like running on a treadmill and agility drills and be cleared by an independent neurologist and team physician. Only then is a player allowed to return to practice.
“The NFL is now the ivory tower,” Anderson said. “They’re under the perfect conditions. I don’t think they could do any better considering the inherent violence of the game.”
Rich Campbell contributed to this report.