League reviewing concussion protocol after Savage hit


Los Angeles (AFP)

The National Football League said Monday it was reviewing the league's concussion protocol after Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage was allowed to play on despite suffering a heavy hit that left him twitching and shaking on the turf.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters on a conference call that the league had opened an investigation with the NFL Players Association to look into the existing concussion rules.

"That work started yesterday afternoon and continued into this morning, but I think we'll withhold further comments until we've had a chance to conduct the review," Lockhart said.

"We believe very strongly that the protocol is an important part of our overall effort on protecting our players health and safety. But we do understand that it is our obligation to look at where the protocol may not have been followed, and just as importantly to see where the protocol can be improved. That's an ongoing effort."

The announcement follows the disturbing sight of Savage lying prone, his hands shaking involuntarily after a bone-jarring hit by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Elvis Dumervil on Sunday in Houston.

Savage was taken to the sideline medical tent for evaluation but returned to the field on the next Texans drive. He threw two incomplete passes.

On the next drive, Savage tried to return to the game again but was seen arguing with team officials before heading back to the locker room. T.J. Yates replaced him for the rest of the game.

- 'I love our players' -

Texans coach Bill O'Brien on Monday defended the decision to allow Savage to return after the initial hit in the second quarter, saying he would never have allowed the quarterback to go back on the field if he had seen the images of him shaking violently.

"I figured he got hit, didn't know he got hit, very difficult from where I'm standing to even see he got it. There's no video on the sideline," O'Brien said.

"With benefit of the video, I never would have allowed the player back in the game and I don't think (trainer) Geoff Kaplan would have let Tom back in the game."

O'Brien said after the first "quick check," he told Kaplan that Savage needed to be re-evaluated.

"It wasn't anything that I particularly saw on the field. I just said, look, that was a quick check," O'Brien said.

"It was a three-and-out on that series. Let's continue to check him to make sure that the player, Tom Savage, is OK. They went, they checked him, they came to me, they were not satisfied with his answers to the questions that they were asking him, and they pulled him from the game."

O'Brien hit back at suggestions he was "passing the buck" over the issue.

"At no point in time in my coaching career, in my 25 years of coaching ... is there anything more important to me than the safety of our players," O'Brien said.

"I love our players and I care about them and I cannot stand when players get injured. Again with benefit of seeing the video that people are seeing, I would have never put him back in the game."

The NFL has faced growing scrutiny in recent years over the issue of concussions and head trauma.

In 2015, the league agreed to a $1 billion settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits by former players suffering from neurological problems.

Yet the issue has continued to loom large over the sport, with critics claiming the rules governing concussions are not enforced vigorously enough and that punishments against dangerous play resulting in concussions are insufficient.