INDIANAPOLIS – Anthony Richardson isn’t T.Y. Hilton. He’s not Philip Rivers. He’s not Quenton Nelson or Shaq Leonard or anyone else people must think he is, when they insist Richardson should play for the Colts on Sunday against Baltimore … as long as he clears the NFL concussion protocol.
Every now and then a story like this comes along where some of us – not you – reveal our inner meathead and sneer:
He should playyyyyyy!
If the doc says he’s OK, he’s OKayyyyyyy.
I hear you, but now I’m asking you to hear me. You won’t like this, because you’re about to read something obvious, something dripping with common sense, and it’ll really tick you off that you didn’t think of it yourself – that you staked out a position that wasn’t so wise after all.
And you’ll pretend I’m wrong. Why? Because it’s what we do. Why is this world so broken? Oh, lots of reasons, but this is right at the top: Nobody likes to admit they’re wrong. They choose a side, and then double down and double down and double down. Pretty soon they’re tying their own integrity to coaches without any, aligning their intelligence to politicians without any, rooting for losers and voting for losers because, well, that’s a decision we made years ago.
Change how you think. Start small, here, with a story about Anthony Richardson.
Anthony Richardson should sit and it's not about the concussion
This isn’t about concussions.
Pretend for a moment Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson was knocked from the game Sunday at Houston with a sore left forearm. Pretend he’s on the injury report this week for the game at Baltimore with the same issue: sore left forearm. He throws righthanded, correct? He runs with his legs. Not sure why a 6-4, 245-pound quarterback even needs that forearm. Just remove the thing and be done with it.
Wait, that’s not the point here.
Point is, this isn’t about concussions. It’s not. I’m begging the meatheads out there – not you – to read this carefully: If doctors clear Richardson late this week, if they say he’s physically ready to play Sunday and is in no danger of risking escalating damage to his brain by playing so soon after suffering a concussion, fine.
If this were Philip Rivers in 2020, I’d have said: Go for it. Let him play, Colts. By then Rivers had been in the NFL for 16 years. He’d seen every defense known to man, and had taken enough reps in his career – high school, college, NFL – that he wouldn’t have needed any that week in practice to play winning football on Sunday. A guy like the 39-year-old Rivers in 2020 could, almost literally, roll out of bed and play quarterback at a high level.
Anthony Richardson isn’t Philip Rivers.
Let’s repeat: Anthony Richardson isn’t Philip Rivers. Nor is he T.Y. Hilton, who famously missed practice with injuries late in his career and played on Sunday anyway because he was that tough, that smart, that experienced. But Richardson isn’t Hilton or left guard Quenton Nelson, whose main responsibility is manhandling the poor sap across from him, or Shaq Leonard, who could get by simply reading and reacting to what he sees.
Anthony Richardson doesn’t play receiver or guard or linebacker. He plays quarterback, but he’s not Rivers or even Jacoby Brissett circa 2020, who also could’ve missed most if not all of practice and then played close to his capability on Sunday.
This isn’t about toughness or smarts. From what I’ve seen so far from Richardson, I’m putting him near the top of the scale in both categories. This is about experience, about preparation to play quarterback in the NFL. You know, and I know you know: Richardson is near the bottom of the scale there.
You really want him to play Sunday at Baltimore?
This is about Anthony Richardson's brain but not his brain injury
If we’re going to err on the side of caution with a prodigy like Anthony Richardson, erring when it comes to his brain is a good idea. Don’t look at me like that, meathead (not you). Haven’t I made this clear?
THIS ISN’T ABOUT CONCUSSIONS.
Sorry. Not shouting at you, but for the people in the back.
This is a story about Anthony Richardson’s brain, but not in the injurious way. Well, not the physically injurious. While I, personally, don’t think it’s a good idea seven days after someone has suffered a concussion to let that person participate in something as violent as an NFL game (or boxing, mixed martial arts, etc.), what I know about concussions can fit into a thimble. Do I think I know some things? Sure. I’ve read a lot. Suffered a few concussions myself. Maybe more than a few.
But what we know about the human brain – a living brain, not one studied posthumously for CTE – is limited. Even the experts are still trying to figure it out, and you and me? We’re not experts.
But we are pretty learned – sounds like learn-ed – in the ways of confidence and self-assurance. One thing an NFL quarterback needs, even more than a rocket arm (which Richardson has) or sprinter speed (ditto) or massive muscles (same), is confidence. When he drops back, he needs to know things are going to be OK, that he can handle whatever the defense does to fool him. That he’s prepared for the moment.
The one thing an NFL quarterback needs even more than confidence? Experience. Know why even the best quarterbacks of all-time either didn’t play as a rookie (Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Joe Montana) or struggled mightily (Peyton Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Matthew Stafford)? Because it’s the hardest position to play in team sports. Nothing else comes close.
And here comes Anthony Richardson, not practicing much this week, perhaps not practicing any – he missed Wednesday’s practice; we’ll see about Thursday and Friday – with the possibility of clearing the NFL concussion protocol on Friday afternoon or even Saturday. Do the Colts play him Sunday, on the road against undefeated Baltimore, against a Ravens defense rated among the league’s best?
Anthony Richardson is an outlier in so many ways. With the exception of Cam Newton, we’ve never seen an NFL quarterback with this much size, speed and arm strength. But he’s an outlier in other ways, too. We’ve never seen an NFL quarterback this young, this inexperienced, get drafted in the top five and receive the keys to the franchise immediately.
Seriously, it’s never happened. Richardson is 21, with just one year as a starter in college. Now he’s played two NFL games, but not even that. He’s played one game and one full quarter before being knocked from the Houston game.
One season of college, five quarters in the NFL, and you think Anthony Richardson will be ready to play at Baltimore if the doctors clear him? Maybe you are a meathead.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts QB Anthony Richardson should sit Sunday; not a concussion story