Ever since the Cleveland Browns either misdiagnosed Colt McCoy's concussion (or didn't diagnose it at all) late last season, the NFL has put forth the appearance that it is far more proactive when it comes to protecting players from returning to games after suffering head injuries. That's the appearance, but reality doesn't always add up.
There's the case of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who certainly seemed to suffer a head injury in the Lions' Week 4 loss to the Minnesota Vikings after a collision with Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. Johnson admitted on Sept. 30 that he played through a concussion, and reaffirmed that notion -- to a point -- after Thursday's practice.
"Yeah, you could tell. It was obvious. I said exactly what I meant, but I guess you could take it out of context. What I meant when I said you have to keep going is you can't be afraid to go over the middle. Not that you get concussed you have to keep playing.
"We know you can't do that if you don't pass the test, but you can't be afraid to keep on going over the middle and doing what we've been doing."
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, preferring to sidestep the ire of the media, said after practice that the team did nothing wrong.
"Our evaluation was he was not concussed," Schwartz said. "He was thoroughly checked. We were very strong in our evaluation. He was cleared to go back in the game and he was on a protocol after that and he was cleared then. We're very strong in our evaluation. And as an organization I think we have some credibility when it comes to concussions. So just leave it there."
Perhaps Johnson forgot to complain of "concussion-like symptoms."
While the Lions do have some credibility in the way they've handled the multiple concussions suffered by running back Jahvid Best, who hasn't played since last October after suffering two concussions in the previous year and at least three in his NFL career, Schwartz was terse when describing the process by which Best will be cleared or not.
"There is a battery of tests and he's going through those all this week," Schwartz told the media. "We're not involved. I mean that's nothing that the coaches had input on. Even our own trainers don't have input on it. It's independent, people. Like I said before, it's a sign of the times and I think it's good that way. Hopefully we get good news and when he's eligible to come off PUP [the Physically Unable to Perform list], he's able to do that, but we can't force that issue. We can't have anything to do with that issue.
"I think I'll just stop right there. He has a battery of tests and exams. He's been doing stuff like that since last year when we ended up putting him on IR. He's being counseled by and looked at by some of the best in the world of what they do."
Best was more forthcoming about the process.
"When you take the concussion test, it's a lot of stuff that goes on. I took it Monday and so they don't know how it went until Friday. It's a lot of, I don't know if you'd call it grading or not, but there's a lot of stuff that goes on so I can't give you my opinion on how it went. But I'm just hopeful for the best.
"The situation I'm in right now, it's taking a long time, it's a long process right now, so I guess I'm kind of the poster boy for it. And so I've got to take it how it is and then (today) I find out the next step."
Cautious after the fact, and seemingly reckless in the game. The more the league's policies on concussions "change," the more they stay the same.