As we all know, player safety has been at the forefront of football for the last several years.
In the NFL, pending lawsuits and multiple cases of suicide by former players has caused the league to take notice of head injuries in particular, so much so that last season the league announced a standardized concussion test protocol to be used by all teams.
My question is, when will the NCAA follow suit?
On Saturday, during the second half of a heated in-state rivalry game between two top 10 teams in Florida and Florida State, Seminole quarterback E.J. Manuel was hammered by two defenders as he scrambled out of the pocket. Manuel fumbled on the play, and it was obvious that by the time he hit the ground, he was completely unconscious.
|Photo by: Zachary Goldstein|
At the time of the injury, Florida State held a slim 20-16 lead. It was clear that the final outcome was still very much in question, and it certainly appeared that the Seminoles would have no choice but to press on without their starting quarterback for the remainder of the contest.
But looks can be deceiving, or so Florida State would like us to believe.
Manuel was replaced alright, for one, yes -- one series. Less than 10 minutes after being knocked into last week, he was back on the field, "cleared" by Seminole trainers to return to action.
Look, I've played and watched enough organized football in my day to know exactly what transpired on Florida State's sideline. At least 10 Seminole staff members huddled around Manuel once he reached the bench, and on multiple occasions, cameras caught coaches leaning into his ear, no doubt trying to persuade him to get back in the game, regardless of if he knew where the hell he was or not.
Manuel, for obvious reasons, never looked the same, and the Seminoles went on to lose, 37-26.
Afterwards, during the press conference, Manuel said, "I had the wind knocked out of me." If by, "wind knocked out of me," he meant, "I have no recollection whatsoever of the end of the 3rd quarter or start of the 4th," I totally buy what he's trying to sell.
Come on, everyone knows how players are. They want to play. That's the whole point in having trainers on the sidelines to begin with -- so they can make the call, not the players.
In this particular case, Florida State's staff failed miserably. Not only because they allowed Manuel to return to the game, but because, from what I saw, they encouraged it.
To me, that's a big problem.
In recent years, the NCAA has been very proactive about protecting players from head injuries, yet they continue not to have a standard procedure in place for evaluating potential concussions on the sidelines.
Rather than leave it up to each individual school, standardizing the process for evaluating and diagnosing a player who may or may not have suffered a concussion would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Now, would it have made a difference in this instance? With a possible BCS berth and millions upon millions of dollars in revenue for the university potentially hanging in the balance? Probably not (I'm sure you see what I'm implying here). However, it would be better than the current system that is in place -- or lack thereof.
For years, we've been led to believe that the National Football League is the so called "devil" when it comes to post-career health problems among former players. But it's becoming more and more evident that the NCAA is just as much, if not more so to blame, because these guys pass through their halls long before the NFL gets their hands on them.
Perhaps if the National Collegiate Athletic Association were to start getting hit with lawsuits as frequently as the National Football League does, we'd start seeing some serious changes made.
In which case, the NCAA could change their behind closed doors motto of, 'win at all cost,' to something more along the lines of, 'win at all cost...until it starts costing us.'