NFL notebook: Concussions KO high-profile QBs

49ers QB Alex Smith stayed in Sunday’s game for several plays after what appeared to be a head-rattling hit.
49ers QB Alex Smith stayed in Sunday’s game for several plays after what appeared to be a head-rattling hit.

Next week’s nationally televised ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ showcase could feature a quarterback matchup of journeyman Jason Campbell of the Bears vs. untested Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers. Not exactly the creme de la creme of the NFC.

Why? Concussions, of course.

With so much attention paid to replacement refs and bounty ruling appeals this season, it’s an issue that’s slipped a bit under the radar lately. But it’s hard to ignore this: 25 percent of Sunday’s NFL games saw a starting QB leave with a concussion.


Two were Chicago’s Jay Cutler and San Francisco’s Alex Smith, whose teams play each other next Monday. Both stayed in Sunday’s games for several plays after what appeared to be head-rattling hits. Smith even threw a TD pass while playing with blurred vision before he departed, according to coach Jim Harbaugh.

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‘‘It’s a reminder that you’ve got to err on the side of caution,’’ said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, who was not familiar with the particulars of Sunday’s quarterback injuries. ‘‘The question that I would ask is: Why did Mr. Smith not report this to his team physician, and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got blurred vision, is that a problem?’ . . . We have to educate the medical teams to be really conservative. And we still have to educate players to self-report. If they don’t feel 100 percent, they have to be willing to very strongly tell somebody.’’

More than 3,500 former players — including at least 26 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — have sued the NFL, saying not enough was done to inform them about the dangers of concussions in the past, and not enough is being done today to take care of them.

The instructions now used for in-game sideline concussion assessments in the NFL include a box that reads: ‘‘Signs and symptoms of concussion may be delayed, and therefore it may be prudent to remove an athlete from play, not leave them alone, and serially monitor them over a period of time.’’ After that, in all capital letters, it reads: ‘‘When in doubt, take a ‘time out.’ ’’

The NFL looked into the Cutler and Smith cases — and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, the third quarterback who got a concussion this weekend — and came away satisfied that the proper protocol was followed. Players who exhibit any concussion symptoms are supposed to be removed from a game immediately and not be allowed to return to play or practice until fully without symptoms.


‘‘Our medical advisors routinely review with team medical staffs all significant injuries,’’ league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail. ‘‘In these cases, we learned that the teams handled the injuries properly and removed the players from the game as soon as they displayed symptoms and were diagnosed with a concussion.’’

Ellenbogen pointed out that concussion symptoms might take time to emerge. That’s apparently what happened with another noteworthy player, Bills running back Fred Jackson, who took a late hit to the head in a loss to the Patriots.

He was examined Monday — a day after showing what coach Chan Gailey called ‘‘concussion-like symptoms’’ on the flight home. Jackson will miss Thursday’s game against Miami.

Murphy is fall guy

Panthers special teams coordinator Brian Murphy became the latest casualty of Carolina’s disappointing season.

Coach Ron Rivera announced the Panthers (2-7) fired Murphy one day after Carolina surrendered a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown to Trindon Holliday in Sunday’s 36-14 loss to the Denver Broncos.


Rivera said he has promoted assistant special teams coach Richard Rodgers to coordinator. Rodgers, in his first season in Carolina, was a college teammate of Rivera’s at Cal.

Rivera said the decision was made because of ‘‘philosophical differences and productivity.’’

In an ironic development, the NFL said Holliday’s return should have been ruled a touchback, not a touchdown.

In the second quarter, Holliday raced up the sidelines and appeared to score. Replays showed Holliday prematurely celebrating the TD by flipping the ball out of his hands before crossing the goal line.

No tear for Dumervil

An MRI on Broncos pass rusher Elvis Dumervil’s left shoulder showed no tear. Coach John Fox said the injury was a muscle strain, ‘‘so that was good news,’’ and the team would know more when they return to practice Wednesday . . . Texans defensive line coach Bill Kollar did not travel home from Chicago with the team because of a possible blood clot. Kollar missed Sunday night’s game against the Bears because of the issue. Coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t sure of the specifics, but says that his tests Monday ‘‘came out good’’ and he’ll return home Tuesday . . . Buccaneers linebacker Quincy Black is expected to recover from a neck injury suffered against San Diego but is experiencing complications with his left arm. Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said Black did not suffer any spinal damage and that the sixth-year pro had ‘‘full function’’ with the exception of a problem with his left arm that will keep him off the field for an undetermined length of time . . . The Chiefs placed defensive end Glenn Dorsey on injured reserve with a calf injury.

Colts lose Powers

The Colts have lost starting cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe) and defensive tackle Drake Nevis (hand) for the rest of the season. Both were placed on injured reserve Monday. Powers is likely to be replaced in the lineup by Darius Butler, who had two interceptions and recovered a fumble last week . . . The Packers placed offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip) on IR. The Packers used Bulaga’s spot on the active roster to sign linebacker Vic So’oto . . . The Lions released cornerback Alphonso Smith and coach Jim Schwartz indicated that defensive back Drayton Florence has been cleared to return from a broken arm . . . Cowboys defensive end Kenyon Coleman is out for the season with a torn left triceps muscle. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Coleman will be placed on IR and have surgery . . . Outgoing Browns president Mike Holmgren still hasn’t decided if he wants to coach again. Hoping to squelch a weekend report that he would be interested in coaching the Cowboys if Garrett gets fired, Holmgren said he would never float a story about any interest in replacing another coach . . . The Falcons cut unproductive defensive end Ray Edwards, who signed a five-year, $30 million deal ($11 million in guaranteed money) shortly after the 2011 lockout . . . The Steelers cut troubled rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, who was suspended for two weeks without pay last month following a run-in with police that resulted in more than a dozen charges, including multiple felonies.