The awful news revealed on Thursday about Detroit Lions running back Jerome Harrison's brain tumor was tempered only by the fact that the physical required when the Lions tried to trade him to the Philadelphia Eagles may have saved Harrison's life because the physical facilitated the diagnosis. From a personal standpoint, it's obviously a difficult challenge for Harrison and everyone close to him to deal with the news.
From a football perspective, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is dealing with more than one very serious medical issue when it comes to his running backs. Not only does Harrison's status put his NFL career on indefinite hold, but according to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports, starting back Jahvid Best has reportedly been advised by those close to him to end his season because of concerns raised by multiple concussions.
On Thursday, Schwartz wouldn't comment on Harrison's status, asking that his privacy be respected, but he did talk about Best's issues in a general sense.
"Well anytime you talk about concussions, the way we've talked about before, it's not a situation you can tough out. I think the NFL has been very proactive in what they're doing with concussions. We've had some players that have had them, some guys that have missed time and some guys that have gotten back. I think we'll just take that same approach with Jahvid. As soon as he gets clearance, he'll be back."
Best's concussions go back to his days at Cal — he missed the final four games of the 2009 season after suffering a concussion and a back injury. Having already suffered the second concussion of his second NFL season has a lot of people wondering — how much is too much? Especially in a league where head injuries are still "treated" with football-speak (read: "Concussion-like symptoms" or "He had his bell rung") far more than they should. Two official concussions in one season could mean many more in a realistic sense.
"That's not up for me to decide," Schwartz said of Best's timetable. That's the reason that the NFL has put people that know what they're doing in those things. Like I said, it's not a situation where a player can will his way back; it's not a situation where a coach or anybody else can put a player back before, you know, the independent doctors say he's able to be able to do those things."
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan hadn't yet talked with Harrison since the diagnosis, but he hoped to soon. With Best, it's a waiting game eased by the fact that there's a level of trust in veteran backup Maurice Morris.
"Well, the thing I am excited about is whenever [we] called on Maurice he stepped up to the plate and performed," Linehan said. "I think he is healthy now. He missed all of training camp and really the first couple games he was coming back from that hand [injury] and not being able to use that hand. You've got to have full use of your hands as a running back. That is hard. Now I think he is 100 percent past that and back to his form of end of last year. One thing is you know what you are getting with Mo and look forward to seeing him take the reins."
It's not just a rough go for the Lions on the football field. Situations like the ones Harrison and Best are facing really test the ultimate challenge for coaches — they have to reconcile their own personal concern for their players with the harsh reality that there's another gameday just around the corner, and there are no free passes to help you get by, no matter what's going on outside the lines.