‘Hard Knocks’ shows athletic trainers still have to battle players over concussion issue

The first episode of this season of "Hard Knocks" was entertaining, as usual.

Giovani Bernard driving his girlfriend's mom's van, Adam Jones running out of gas before he got to the stadium, Andy Dalton's black rubber wedding ring, Jermaine Gresham flattening Geno Atkins, Hue Jackson never being quiet, rookie Larry Black's gruesome ankle injury and his emotional reaction, and even James Harrison being a complete jerk to the HBO crew – it was all fantastic.

One reason the show is so compelling is it does a great job bringing viewers places we generally don't get to go, and that's why the conversation between receiver Marvin Jones and Bengals athletic trainer Paul Sparling might have been the most interesting part of the episode.

It was proof that for all the concussion progress being made in the NFL, there is still a long way to go before players are completely on board.

Jones dove for a pass during practice and stayed down. When he came to the sideline he told Sparling his head rang a bit, and immediately seemed regretful he said that when Sparling told him under NFL rules that meant he was done for the day.

"Huh? No, no, no, I’m good," Jones argued, as shown on the show.

Jones tried to convince Sparling he was good to go, mentioning that he thinks he just bit his lip.

"I’m good, trust me. I’m good, trust me," Jones said. "I’m good. I didn’t show any symptoms or anything."

Sparling wouldn't give in.

Sparling: "We’re done for the day."

Jones: "Really?"

Sparling: "We’ll have you ready for tomorrow, I promise you."

Jones: "I feel … "

Sparling: "I feel, you, I’m with you. I’m not letting you go back."

And even still, Sparling had to sell the idea of Jones sitting out the rest of the practice, to be sure he didn't have a concussion.

Sparling: "What would your folks want me to do?"

Jones: "To be honest, if I was good … "

Sparling: "OK, what would your children want me to do? Take care of daddy?"

Jones: "Yeah."

Sparling: "That’s what I’m doing, taking care of daddy. Fair enough?"

Jones: "Yeah, that’s good."

While something like Harrison flipping the middle finger to the HBO camera might have been more entertaining, the concussion exchange was enlightening. Ask yourself this: Given Jones' arguments after he was told he was done for the day, do you think he is going to tell the trainer the truth the next time he's in a similar situation? Will he tell Sparling his head hurt during a game, knowing he'd be sitting out the rest of it if he was honest? And this seems like a conversation that isn't all too rare on NFL sidelines.

There's no way to tell for sure what Jones will do next time, but that exchange gave a good glimpse into what NFL training staffs deal with when it comes to changing attitudes about concussions.

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