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By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
The new NFL: The Browns got a taste of what their own actions wrought Friday in Detroit.
Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was removed from the game after the first play because the certified athletic trainer monitoring possible concussion injuries from a video booth in Ford Field determined he needed to be checked out.
Massaquoi then was given a new standardized sideline concussion test adopted by the NFL in February and was held out for the remainder of the game based on the results.
Massaquoi said on Tuesday that he “never developed a symptom or anything” and that the actions were “strictly precautionary because of the type of the hit, the way that the hit looked.” The hit by Lions safety Erik Coleman was legal to the shoulder area, but Massaquoi bent down and his head may have hit the ground after the blow.
But there are two distinct, extremely sensitive issues – possibly three – butting heads here, which we will clear up to explain why Massaquoi and coach Pat Shurmur still seem to have a difference of opinion over what happened.
No. 1: The Browns’ actions in the Pittsburgh game last year directly resulted in the two major changes adopted by the NFL to help prevent players from continuing to play after concussion injuries. These changes were adding the trainer upstairs and designing a new concussion symptoms test.
The Browns failed to administer the old sideline test to Colt McCoy in the Dec. 8 game because their doctors and trainers were all tending to multiple injuries at the time. Since nobody on the medical staff actually saw James Harrison’s cheap-shot helmet hit to McCoy’s facemask – unbelievable as that sounds – the Browns were excused and exonerated of any league discipline.
To this day, though, Shurmur feels terrible about the entire incident. McCoy was exposed to potential danger because the coach was told by the unknowing medical experts that McCoy was “good to go.”
Consequently, Shurmur took a lot of grief for putting McCoy back into the game only two plays after the brutal hit. As a devoted father himself, Shurmur was deeply affected by critical comments made by McCoy’s father, Brad, to The Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot the day after he watched his son get blasted on national television.
Understandably, Shurmur henceforth will always err on the side of caution.
No. 2: Massaquoi is trying to overcome the stigma of previous concussion injuries, one of which was also administered by Harrison in a game in 2010.
In June, Massaquoi was put on notice by Browns President Mike Holmgren to get over that hit and step up to the plate as a productive receiver because the team needs him. After another concussion injury last season, Massaquoi also has to prove to himself – and his team – that he can go over the middle, make a catch, and not have to leave a game because of it.
Massaquoi has had an excellent camp in what could be a career-altering season for him. He has run a ton of inside routes in camp and was not happy that his first one in the first preseason game resulted in more questions about his durability.
“I think the way to kind of offset that is to be aware of what the defense is doing, so you’re not running into things,” he said of surviving in the middle of the field. “It was a good shot. I got up from it. So that feels good to know that every time somebody touches you you’re not going to fall over and go through another concussion. Just having a better grasp of the offense will give me a little more flexibility to move around.”
No. 3: Shurmur was upset with Massaquoi’s post-game Tweet in Detroit because it contradicted what the coach said after the game. Shurmur defined Massaquoi’s injury as a concussion. Massaquoi said he had no concussion, and was removed for precautionary reasons. It’s the same story he gave on Tuesday.
Shurmur said he doesn’t want his players Tweeting Browns business, but he realizes he can not control or harness our national obsession with social media.
“Tweeting’s a new age thing,” Massaquoi said with a chuckle. “Pat’s a little older, so he doesn’t understand it.
“We’re going to keep certain things in house, far as Twitter goes. We’re not going to give up gameplans or give too many updates which may hinder something that we’re trying to do. But Twitter’s fun. Hopefully I can get Pat to get one."
Moving forward: Be prepared to see more and more players removed from games as a result of the new concussion precautions adopted by the NFL. With concussion lawsuits filed by about 2,000 former players hanging over the league, no player is going to be able to talk his way back into games.
There simply is no excuse for players to be exposed to further head injury, as was McCoy and San Diego guard Kris Dielman, who suffered convulsions after playing with a concussion last year and retired prematurely after the season.
Players with a history of concussions, such as Massaquoi, are naturally going to be targeted for extra caution.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email that the certified trainers acting as spotters at games will not have a list of players with concussion histories. But, he added, “The team medical staff has the players’ histories.”
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