NFL Players Association president Eric Winston wants the league to reconsider its initial decision and fine the St. Louis Rams for their role in the mishandling of quarterback Case Keenum’s recent concussion.
“Complete failure to adhere to the protocol,” Winston, the Cincinnati Bengals’ veteran tackle, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.
“Show me someone that says, ‘No, the Rams did exactly the right thing.’ They didn’t. Everybody knows they didn’t. So, there has to be discipline then, right? Because when a player doesn’t do something that he’s supposed to do, he gets fined for that when it comes to health and safety.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher has said he didn’t see Keenum struggling to get up after his head hit the turf late in a Nov. 22 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Rams’ head athletic trainer, Reggie Scott, spoke briefly on the field to Keenum, who said he was OK before officials made Scott leave the field, according to Fisher.
Keenum wasn’t examined by a team physician or the unaffiliated neurological consultant (UNC) on the sideline. The athletic trainer serving as spotter in an upstairs booth – who is connected by radio to the team physician, UNC and officials – didn’t intervene to make sure Keenum was properly evaluated. Neither did referee Tony Corrente.
NFL and union medical experts had a mandatory conference call with all 32 head athletic trainers to discuss the events that led to the failure and review protocols. The league said discipline could be considered for future violations, but there will be none in the Keenum case. However, the union considers ongoing its joint investigation with NFL medical advisor Dr. Elliot Pellman and members of the league’s management council.
While fines for on-field infractions are based on a collectively bargained schedule, Winston suggested there’s a double standard compared to how the NFL has disciplined players amidst recent rule changes, such as a ban on striking defenseless players in the head/neck area.
“There was no grace period for players,” Winston said. “It was, ‘Immediately change, or you’re going to be fined.’ All of a sudden, stuff that was legal isn’t legal. And we understand why. There wasn’t a fight against it. But all of a sudden that became not only illegal, but fined immediately. While these protocols have now been around for years, (teams are) still not being fined.”
Rams spokesman Artis Twyman said the team has no comment on Winston’s remarks.
Two plays after the injury, Keenum took another sack, fumbled and gave the ball to the Ravens, who ended up kicking a winning field goal.
The situation played out differently with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who self-reported concussion symptoms late in a loss at Seattle. Winston said Roethlisberger should be applauded, but the protocols don’t make players the first line of defense.
“You might just be on overdrive,” Winston said. “You’re in the middle of a situation, you’re thinking ‘I’ve got to get up and starting running.’ It’s not – it can’t be on the players. If you look at the protocols, it’s not on the players to stop the game.”
Winston added: “Listen, it’s working. The message of constantly going in there — ‘this is what it probably feels like, this is what symptoms you could be experiencing’ — everything that goes into what we’ve been harping on now for a long, long, long time … people are getting it.”
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