Report: Colt McCoy concussion testing was ‘total system failure’

The fallout from the Cleveland Browns' handing of Colt McCoy's "concussion-like symptoms" during and after the team's 14-3 Thursday night loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers continues. We wrote about this on Friday, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday morning  that the Browns didn't even give McCoy the standard SCAT2 concussion test until Friday morning, and that the test showed abnormal results. One NFL Players Association source told Mortensen that the Browns' medical staff was involved in what accounted to a "total system failure."

Per the Mortensen report, because McCoy didn't specifically complain of concussion symptoms when he came off the field after getting poleaxed by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, he was only checked for the hand injury he did talk about. Sources told Mortensen that this could the the catalyst that finally puts independent neurologists (doctors that are not team or league employees) on the sideline for each game.

Do we really want to rely on concussed players to be aware of their own head injuries? Especially after obvious head hits? Can the NFL possibly be that dense?

The NFL Network pregame crew of Steve Mariucci, Kurt Warner, and Warren Sapp discussed this before the news that McCoy wasn't checked on the sideline was made public.

Mariucci, who coached on the same Green Bay Packers staff that included Fritz Shurmur, the late uncle of current Browns head coach Pat Shurmur, believed that there was nothing wrong with sending McCoy back in the game, because McCoy asked in, and Mariucci assumed that the doctors and trainers followed protocol. Sapp vehemently disagreed, mentioning that as a former player, "we always want to go back in" and that the decision to go back in the game should be taken out of the player's hands.

According to Mariucci, the diagnostic process is pretty much the same for the kind of ankle injury that Roethlisberger suffered and the concussion that McCoy may have had. That may be true, and if it is, that makes very little sense and must be changed. The protocol for concussions must be different by the very nature of the injury.

Warner, who's had his bell rung more than anyone else on that panel, and who would know the symptoms a bit more clearly, was far more specific as to why McCoy should not have been allowed back in the game.

"As a father, and as a guy who's been in that position before, I'm going to say, 'No,'" Warner said. "I don't know what they did on the sideline — obviously, it sounds like they did everything they were supposed to do with the protocol — but I was watching the game. And when I was watching the game, I was saying to myself, 'He doesn't look right.' He looks like he's holding the ball a little too long after he came back in, and I wondered if he was still a little bit woozy from that hit he took. I could tell that watching it on TV; I can't imagine that the people there — the doctors and people monitoring him on the sideline — couldn't figure out that there was something a little bit off. And if there's anything a little bit off, in my opinion, especially where the league is at right now, you have to proceed with caution."

Sapp put it most simply and eloquently: "The doctors dropped the ball."

The real question, and this goes to the testing standards for all NFL teams (we're mnot just picking on the Browns here) is: How much are the doctors told to hold on to that ball in the first place?

The NFL must change its concussion protocol, and it must do so now. Mandatory, and without question. No more excuses, and no more B.S. It's as simple as that.

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