A Concussion Discussion

Street Talk A Concussion Discussion

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Every NFL fan wants the same thing on game day – the best possible 46 players active to propel their team to victory.

As Ravens fans know all too well, one major hurdle to having those best 46 is injuries. When the injuries start to pile up and the coaching staff starts digging deeper and deeper into the depth chart, teams look to anyone healthy who can make the plays.

The Ravens faced this situation recently with their wide receiver corps. Heading into Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens feared they may be without Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace, the top two receivers on their depth chart.

Maclin got cleared to play, but Wallace did not….or so we thought.

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Wallace Opted Not to Play in Week 8

Wallace had left Week 7’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings after taking a vicious headshot from Andrew Sendejo (who was suspended for the hit).

Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that Wallace had actually cleared concussion protocol and was eligible to play against the Dolphins. However, with the blessing of Head Coach John Harbaugh, Wallace opted not to play because he wasn’t comfortable taking a hit so soon after having a concussion.

Garrett Also Opting not to Play

Similarly, this week it was reported that Myles Garrett self-reported a concussion. “It doesn’t really bother me what other people say,” said Garrett, “whether I’m ‘being a man’ or not. I’ll play through my foot, my arm, anything that’s affecting me below my neck. I can’t play around with my brain.”

Fan Reaction

The evidence of concussions among NFL players, and all athletes for that matter, continues to build the case for expanded awareness and player safety protocols in regards to head injuries.

However, I’d like to focus this conversation on the reaction from fans.

What really stands out in Garrett’s quote is his comments on how someone would react, specifically citing masculinity. We’ve all seen this before in our personal lives. Someone opts not to do something and ends up being called “scared” or a “wimp.”

It’s these types of pressures that have caused players to play through injury and which can create extremely dangerous situations.

We, as fans of the game, have a responsibility to respect the players playing the game that we all love. Take Wallace for example.

The Ravens were sitting at 3-4 going into last Thursday’s matchup. The difference between 3-5 and 4-4 this early in the season is quite large. The Ravens fan base is also well aware that the team lacks playmakers on offense, specifically at the WR position.

Would we want Mike Wallace out there if he can be? Of course, we do.

However, ask yourself this: should he have played if he was not comfortable taking hits?

Some fans may answer “yes.” I’m sure they will cite such things as the money he makes and the sport he plays. The good old “he knows what he signed up for” rationale would make an appearance.

This is the type of rhetoric that has dominated sports culture for eons.

This is also the type of rhetoric that could be damaging, not only to these players’ careers, but also to their long-term health. As fans, we don’t always think about life after football for the players we cheer for every week.

And therein lies one of the fundamental problems in the new age of concussion awareness.

If we want to start getting serious on concussions and ensuring that players are playing when they’re healthy to do so, then we need to re-evaluate how we react to someone saying they’re not ready to play. Wallace did not “wimp out” from playing last Thursday. He made the best decision for himself that took his health into consideration.

It’s these types of conversations that we, as fans, need to have moving forward.

I want to see the Ravens win every single possible game. But if I’m deciding between winning a game and putting a player at risk or losing and knowing they made the correct decision, I will take the latter every week. Fans have a role in concussion awareness and it starts with your reactions to these situations.

So, I ask you Ravens nation, what are your thoughts on Mike Wallace not playing?

What if Joe Flacco decides he’s not comfortable enough to play Sunday after taking that hit from Kiko Alonso?

Would the fact that he’s the QB change your reaction?

Let me know your thoughts below. Let’s talk about this.

Should concussed players play if medically cleared?
Only if they are comfortable doing so.
Yes, without question. It is not up to them.
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Cole Jackson

About Cole Jackson

Cole Jackson has been an avid follower of the Baltimore Ravens for over a decade. Born and raised in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, Cole’s love for the Ravens was born and bred in following the playing style of Ray Lewis, which he tried to emulate in his own football career, (ultimately failing to do so). Cole graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in Criminology before becoming a Policy Analyst with the federal government. Cole’s football career now involves being a columnist for RSR, yelling at others who are beating him in Madden and being a regular on the RSR forum where he is known as GreatWhiteNorthRaven. Cole has a knack for the team-building aspects of the Ravens, which includes player scouting, free agency and the draft. More from Cole Jackson

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