FOXBOROUGH — The NFL and NFL Players Association released a joint statement Thursday, revealing the Patriots did not violate protocol in their handling of the concussion suffered by safety Patrick Chung on Sept. 16 at Jacksonville.
When Chung went down against the Jaguars, he was pulled from the contest for a play by the game official. However, neither the game official, the ATC spotter, nor the sideline medical staff saw reason to trigger the league’s concussion protocol.
It wasn’t until Chung returned for several plays that New England’s coaching staff observed worrisome behavior, warranting a sideline review and triggering the protocol. Chung was cleared and remained under close observation.
At halftime, Chung was re-evaluated. It wasn’t until then that he was diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms and thus ruled out for the remainder of the game. He also missed New England’s Week 3 tilt at Detroit.
The statement given by the NFL and NFLPA asserted that concussion symptoms are often developmentally delayed, and that it’s not uncommon for symptoms to de dormant in the initial aftermath of a head injury. Because New England removed Chung as soon as his symptoms were identified, the team was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Whether Chung is healthy enough to play Sunday against Miami is another question entirely. He returned to practice Wednesday as a limited participant and was seen engaging in abridged tackling drills, an indication he’s in the fourth and final stage of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Once he completes a full practice without his symptoms recurring, the team must consult an independent neurologist before he is cleared for game action.
New England missed nine tackles in Detroit and couldn’t get off the field on third down. Cornerback Eric Rowe was the only absentee from Thursday’s practice, further thinning the Patriots’ secondary. Should Chung return Sunday, he’ll provide a much-needed lift in both aforementioned areas of concern.
Can Simon help?
The Patriots’ pass rush is in desperate need of reinforcements. Back-to-back weeks of shoddy play were worrisome enough; then precocious rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
New England may receive a boost from John Simon, the six-year veteran out of Ohio State who was brought in Tuesday and signed officially the day after. Simon has spent his career oscillating between outside linebacker and defensive end, excelling when used situationally as a pass-rusher.
Simon played for the Ravens, Texans, and Colts before landing in New England. His most recent escapade came in Indianapolis, but the Colts cut him at the beginning of September.
“That’s the business,” said Simon. “That wasn’t my decision to make. That’s the Colts’ decision. [Stunk] for me but [it] put me in this opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it. Think I put in two good practices so it’s going well.”
It’s Simon’s tenure as a Texan that holds the most weight as he gets comfortable in Foxborough. Two key former Patriots, Mike Vrabel and Romeo Crennel, helped Simon mold his defensive technique while in Houston. The scheme Crennel, Vrabel, and others crafted held some carryover from their New England days.
Those similarities helped Simon acclimate during his first 48 hours in the Foxborough film room.
“In Houston with Vrabel, Romeo Crennel, a lot of those guys were here before so I kind of know the culture and that’s helped me out,” said Simon. “It’s similar to some of the things I’ve done in the past in a 3-4 scheme in Houston.”
Simon’s best year came in 2015 as a member of the Texans. It was the only season he appeared in all 16 games and the results were evident, Simon notching five sacks and accumulating 36 solo tackles. Whether Simon bumps Dont’a Hightower or Kyle Van Noy to middle linebacker or is used mainly as a fill-in on the edges, he’ll need to bother opposing quarterbacks if he hopes to stick around in New England.
There’s one element to trekking northeast Simon knows won’t be a problem.
“I’m a cold-weather fan,” he acknowledged, “so it’s nice it’s 50 degrees here already.”
New England welcomes former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola back to Foxborough Sunday, this time as a member of the Dolphins. The Patriots offense held no punch the past two weeks, sorely lacking what Amendola used to bring.
“Danny’s a great guy,” said Phillip Dorsett. “He’s a savvy player. He’s a lion out there. He has a lot of heart and goes hard every day in practice. He’s a dog. He grinds out there.”
New England may possess a competitive advantage against Amendola as it tries to slow him Sunday. Coach Bill Belichick said Miami uses Amendola “similar to the way we used him.”
Light to be feted
Former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light was fitted for his Patriots Hall of Fame “Red Jacket.” The induction ceremony will be held in the Patriots Hall of Fame at 4 on Saturday . . . Rowe was the only non-participant Thursday. However, New England fielded a beefy list of limited participants: Marcus Cannon (calf), Chung (concussion), Keion Crossen (hamstring), Nate Ebner (hip), Trey Flowers (concussion), Josh Gordon (hamstring), Geneo Grissom (ankle), Rob Gronkowski (ankle), Jacob Hollister (chest), Brandon King (foot), and Danny Shelton (elbow). King was the only new addition to the list.