CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to discuss the NFL concussion issue, specifically related to Broncos receiver Wes Welker. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Welker suffered his third diagnosed concussion in 10 months when he was drilled in the head during his team’s preseason game against the Texans on Saturday.
“I’m not a big believer in telling adults what they can and can’t do, ideally — ideally — so I don’t think the NFL ought to be telling Welker, so I don’t think that should happen,” Doyel said. “But I do think two things about this. One is, I’m disturbed when coaches talk about, ‘We’ll follow protocol and see what happens next.’ ‘¦ That’s a human being you’re talking about. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what the damn protocol says. How about you not play that guy?”
Added Doyel: “The NFL shouldn’t be telling anybody who can and can’t play, but if 32 individual teams, starting with the Broncos, all made the same compassionate choice that, ‘Wes Welker, you can play in the league if you want, but I can’t be the reason you’re playing. I’m not going to pay you a paycheck to go out and get hit in the head again.’ And if all 32 teams — don’t call it collusion, but just if all of them come to the same conclusion that, ‘We like you too much to see you die under our watch,’ and he never plays again, I think that would be fabulous.”
Doyel said he does not have faith in the teams’ medical staffs.
“Historically, there have been issues with team doctors. Historically. Not every one of them, obviously. But enough of them,” he said. “All it takes is a couple. Look, if one cockroach walks across your plate of food, you don’t want to eat that food. It didn’t take a lot of cockroaches, it just took one. Well, there’s been a handful of doctors over the years — and a big handful — that have played players because their team needed them, and cleared them because their team needed them. There’s only so much faith I can put in a guy when he’s talking about an asset. And Wes Welker is an asset.
“And Wes Welker thinks he can play and wants to play — this is hypothetical — but Wes Welker thinks he can play and wants to play, is convinced he ought to play, the guy makes X number of dollars in the salary cap, it’s too late to get a replacement, ‘OK, looks like the protocol’s been followed, go back and get back on the field.’
“At some point — again, we’re talking pie in the sky here, I am, but so are you to assume that, well, if they clear him, then obviously he’s OK. Says who?”
Current NFL protocol calls for a doctor not affiliated with the team and approved by the league and the players association to clear the player after the team doctor gives his OK.
“I like that. I do like that,” Doyel said. “Still, people are people. People are weak. We know what we know about concussions. We know what we know about Wes Welker specifically and just in general about any player that’s going through this. We know what we know, and we know that you can’t afford another one. Maybe you can. It’s a lottery, but it’s a weighted — very, very weighted lottery against you. Every one you suffer increases the odds of when you’re 50 you’re eating oatmeal with a straw. We know that.
“Look, it’s one of those things, it’s just a matter of what do you want to believe, and what do you want to go to sleep at night feeling good about. Do you want to go to sleep at night feeling good that, well, someone said Wes Welker could play. Just like someone said Austin Collie could play. Then OK, I’m going to go to bed feeling good about that. And when the game comes on tomorrow and Welker’s on, going over the middle, I’m not going to cringe at all. No, I’m going to cringe. I’m going to cringe. And I don’t want to cringe.
“I cringe when anybody gets hit now, but there’s certain guys, and Austin Collie’s at that level for me, and Welker is now there, too, where I really, if you’re playing on TV, I kind of am not sure I can watch when your team’s on offense. And I’m not trying to be overreactionary or a softie or whatever. But I just mean that. If the Broncos are playing, as much as I like Peyton Manning, I’m not sure I want to watch.”
Doyel said he’s not sure how football can fix this problem.
“There is no solution,” Doyel said. “These guys are too big, fast, strong. And more to the point — the game is hopefully getting away from that a little bit — but the game for the last 15 years has idealized kill shots. You’ve got guys going in high because they want to look all tough to their boys back home.”