The NFL and NFL Players Association agree that concussion monitoring is a high priority, with a mission to be more proactive at all game sites, but the two sides offer conflicting versions of a plan under discussion to place a medical observer inside the NFL command center.
League spokesman Greg Aiello downplayed an emphatic statement by NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer, who Saturday night said that starting Sunday the union would place an observer in the NFL command center in New York to monitor any obvious concussions. Dr. Mayer said an observer in the league command center, where all games are shown via live feed on big-screen monitors, would be an experiment toward the next step in concussion monitoring.
However, Aiello said, "There have been internal discussions that included having someone in the command center, but that won't happen today and there's not a lot of interest on our side in doing that. The more likely scenario is placing someone at each game site, but there's no timetable for starting it."
Dr. Mayer was unavailable to react to the league's hesitation, but he had been adamant that an observer would be in the command center as part of a process to "protect the players."
"Having someone in the command center (Sunday) would be an exercise, an opportunity to expand the system and process as we take necessary steps to protect the players and assist the medical staffs on site," Dr. Mayer said. "There would not necessarily be communication with those game sites immediately, but it will provide us with a step of improved coordination. Eventually, our goal is to have booth observers at each game who do nothing but watch for those concussions that may be missed from the sideline view and alert the staff to get the player off the field. The most dangerous threat to a player is having head trauma and remaining in the game."
One case that has been under review involves San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman, who stumbled after a collision in an Oct. 23 game against the Jets. Dielman played the remaining 12:33 of the game and later suffered a grand mal seizure aboard the team's flight back to California. Dielman experienced lingering concussion symptoms and was placed on injured reserve this week.
In a 2010 season opener, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley also staggered after a collision, and the team's staff was busy treating quarterback Kevin Kolb, who had suffered a concussion at the end of the team's previous offensive series. (Bradley and Kolb both now play for the Cardinals.)
"The data that we now have compel us as a union and hopefully as a league to treat this at the highest level with urgency," Dr. Mayer said. "The consequences, as we know, are dire for the players who are allowed to remain in a game when they've suffered a concussion."
Aiello said, "We have no qualms about the priority on concussions and you have seen a very proactive response by all parties involved in these discussions."
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.