Trainer will oversee in-game testing

Updated: December 21, 2011, 6:25 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN

As a direct result of the Cleveland Browns' failure to test quarterback Colt McCoy for a concussion on the sideline during a game, the NFL alerted all 32 teams Wednesday that, effective this week, an independently certified athletics trainer will be assigned to monitor all suspected concussion-related injuries, a league official confirmed Tuesday.

The independent trainers will be paid by the NFL and approved by the NFL Players Association, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello.

"In most cases, the athletic trainer will be affiliated with a major college program in the area or will have previously been affiliated with an NFL club," the league said in a statement Wednesday.

The trainer's sole purpose will be to oversee the treatment of any possible concussions and ensure that the medical staffs on each sideline are following proper league protocol and testing for any head trauma. During the game, the trainers will be situated in an upstairs booth with direct communication access to each team's sideline.

The trainer's "role will be to provide information to team medical staffs that might have been missed due to a lack of a clear view of the play or because they were attending to other players or duties," the statement said.

Also, team medical staffs will be permitted to use cell phones during games to gather information relating to the care of an injured player. This is not limited to concussions.

McCoy remains sidelined with the concussion sustained Dec. 8 when he was laid out on an illegal helmet-to-face mask hit by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. Although he was flattened by Harrison's vicious hit, the second-year QB was not tested for a concussion and the Browns sent him back in the game after two plays.

McCoy has not yet been cleared to practice by Browns doctors. Coach Pat Shurmur said Seneca Wallace will "likely" make his second straight start for Cleveland on Saturday in Baltimore.

Shurmur refused to officially name Wallace his starter, but said, "At this point, more than likely he'll be the starter, for sure."

In the aftermath of McCoy's injury, which took place during a nationally televised game, the league sent a medical team to Cleveland last week to meet with the Browns. Commissioner Roger Goodell also took part in a four-hour conference call to discuss the team's handling of McCoy's injury, which revealed some gray areas in the league's policy on handling concussions.

Players Association representatives were also involved in the discussions. The NFLPA may still file a grievance on McCoy's behalf.

Team president Mike Holmgren explained that the Browns' medical and training staff did not test McCoy for a concussion on the field or sideline because he did not display symptoms of a concussion and that trainers and doctors did not see Harrison's devastating blow because they were attending to other injured players.

By adding an overseeing trainer, the league is hoping an extra set of eyes will help medical staffs on the sideline spot injuries and get injured players necessary care.

The Browns have had eight players sustain 11 concussions this season. Tight end Benjamin Watson was placed on injured reserve last week after getting his third concussion since July. Fullback Owen Marecic was just cleared to practice Tuesday after getting two concussions in four weeks.

Tight end Evan Moore was pleased to hear the league was considering changes to protect players.

"Unfortunately we have to be a little more reactive than proactive with this stuff because sometimes you just don't know until something happens the best way to handle it," said Moore, who suffered a concussion during training camp. "But thank goodness all of our guys are OK, and if it leads to change in the system, then that's good.

"It's unfortunate, but if it leads to change for the better in how we protect players, then so be it."

Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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