Standing outside the practice bubble at Redskins Park last Thursday, tight end Jordan Reed was confident he was symptom-free after sustaining a concussion and would be able to return to play for the Washington Redskins against the New York Giants on Sunday.
“Yeah, I’m definitely going for sure,” Reed said.
Reed had plenty of reasons for his conviction. He had incurred the concussion in the Redskins‘ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 17, and after sitting out of practice the following week and the game against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 25, he had finally passed baseline concussion tests and was approved to return to practice in a limited fashion.
Yet, when Reed began warming up at FedEx Field late Sunday, roughly three hours before he was set to make his return, something didn’t seem right. He felt a slight headache creeping in, and after finishing the workout, he told the Redskins‘ medical staff about his discomfort.
That was it, he was told. When Reed returned to the field, he stood for 10 minutes at the 50-yard line watching his teammates warm up, a look of frustration on his face.
By virtue of the recurring symptoms, Reed will once again be subject to the NFL’s concussion protocol this week, requiring a series of tests before he’s allowed to be cleared to play in the Redskins‘ game against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Reed won’t be the only Redskins player undergoing tests this week. Strong safety Reed Doughty sustained a concussion on Sunday, his second of the season, leaving his status for the Chiefs game uncertain as well.
In all, five Redskins players have sustained a concussion this season: Reed, Doughty, free safeties Brandon Meriweather and Jordan Pugh and cornerback David Amerson. Eight players sustained one last season, with only right tackle Tyler Polumbus missing the following game because symptoms persisted.
Doughty’s case is especially curious. The strong safety sustained his first concussion in the Redskins‘ victory over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 20, and though he passed several tests later in the week, he and the team’s medical staff made the mutual decision to have him stay home while the team played a road game against the Denver Broncos.
He played only 13 snaps against the Giants on Sunday before sustaining the latest concussion. Before this season, Doughty had previously been diagnosed with one other concussion in his seven-plus seasons in the NFL: In 2009, when he left a Week 16 game against the Dallas Cowboys and sat out the season finale the following week against the San Diego Chargers.
“I missed one game with a concussion in ‘09, and it was a very similar feeling where you’re feeling pretty good, but you just don’t feel right,” Doughty said on Oct. 30, three days after the game against the Broncos. “You just know that the impact of what a second concussion in that short timeframe can do, and not only would it hurt myself in the long-term medically, but it’d hurt my team. I might be out there three plays, get hurt, and then we’re down a guy for the game.”
The NFL’s concussion protocol, tweaked again prior to the season, requires a player to begin physical activity only after feeling normal and returning to the standards set by baseline testing. That typically happens on Monday; by Tuesday, a player is allowed to increase his physical activity, usually with a cardiovascular workout, and assuming symptoms have not returned, he’s able to participate in greater portions of practice Wednesday and Thursday before completing a full practice on Friday.
Reed never completed a full practice last week, though he said he passed concussion tests for the first time on Tuesday. He was also slow to recover from a concussion sustained last season when he was a junior at Florida, missing a week of practice but not a game because the Gators were off the following week.
He also said the concussion sustained on Nov. 17 was the third he’s been diagnosed with; when the other occurred is uncertain.
With the Redskins‘ chances of a second consecutive playoff appearance over following a loss to the Giants on Sunday, there’s no urgency for either player to return for the final four games. Doughty, who has tracked the growing awareness and expanded research of concussions in recent years, could conceivably miss significant time.
Reed, second on the team in receptions and receiving yards, may be the closer of the two to playing on Sunday.
“He’s working through it,” coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. “There’s a protocol that he goes through and hopefully he will be healthy, because he’s a very talented player, a very tough player.”