Late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's Steelers-Browns game, Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy sustained the kind of devastating helmet-to-helmet blow that chills even the most hardened NFL fan.
As seen in the video above -- which requires a strong stomach to watch -- McCoy rolls left out of the pocket and dumps the ball to his running back a split second before being nearly decapitated by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. McCoy lay flat on his back for minutes after the play, occasionally flailing his arms and legs in either pain or confusion. Harrison, who'd been leading with his helmet, was flagged for a personal foul.
What the video doesn't show is an equally shocking development just three plays later: McCoy returning to the huddle, hoping to lead the Browns out of a 7-3 deficit. Instead, he soon threw an interception, essentially sealing the Steelers' 14-3 win.
The NFL is still trying to figure out how to deal with its concussion problem, as well as the unknown number of players who have suffered brain damage. Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur's call to put McCoy back out on the field raises an important question: Could a shaken McCoy even be capable of making clear-headed decisions in the interest of his own health?
Colt McCoy's father, Brad, doesn't seem to think so. Brad McCoy told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that his son doesn't remember anything after the brutal hit from Harrison -- not even the game-ending pick.
"I talked to Colt this morning and he said, 'Dad, I don't know what happened," Brad McCoy said.
The elder McCoy criticized the Browns' coaching staff for putting his son back on the field:
"He never should've gone back in the game. He was basically out (cold) after the hit. You could tell by the rigidity of his body as he was laying there. There were a lot of easy symptoms that should've told them he had a concussion. He was nauseated and he didn't know who he was. From what I could see, they didn't test him for a concussion on the sidelines. They looked at his (left) hand.''
Shurmur said that McCoy was indeed examined, with the Browns staff following normal protocol. He told the Plain Dealer that McCoy showed no signs of a concussion before being sent back into the game. According to Shurmur, after the sideline exam, McCoy said, "I'm ready to go."
"I feel very confident if he wasn't able to play, we would've stopped him," Shurmur told reporters.
But according to Brad McCoy, his son displayed possible signs of a concussion after the game. In addition to having no memory of the last plays, Colt couldn't bear the lights during the postgame press conference, he said.
"The TV lights and the stadium lights were killing him," Brad said. "Why would you say he was fine? That makes it even worse."
McCoy's return to the field after a brutal hit isn't an isolated incident in the NFL. In late October, the San Diego Chargers sent left guard Kris Dielman back into the game after a concussion. Dielman later suffered a seizure.
The NFL, perhaps feeling the teams themselves aren’t an adequate safeguard, has decided to start training its referees to identify concussions after tough hits.
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