Chicago Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker ended up on NFL concussion protocol after Sunday’s loss to Atlanta.
Brisker missed practice on Wednesday, and his status for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets remains uncertain as he undergoes further evaluation.
Brisker played 53 of 55 defensive snaps against the Falcons but was twice taken off the field to be assessed for a head injury.
The first instance came in the Falcons’ first series after the rookie tackled quarterback Marcus Mariota in a scramble. Brisker’s header slammed into the back of Falcons tight end MyCole Pruitt during the stretch, and the defensive back was slow to get to his feet.
He was taken out of play to be watched but only missed one shot before returning.
In the third quarter, Brisker was rocked again after helping to defeat Cordarrelle Patterson from a short distance. It looked like a routine play, but Brisker grabbed his head and looked uncomfortable after hitting the turf. He was then removed from the field before the next game to be reviewed. Still, he came back for the next series and finished the game.
He wasn’t officially diagnosed with a concussion until Monday.
Two other Bears players — cornerback Kyler Gordon and linebacker Sterling Weatherford — also landed in concussion protocol after the game. Gordon was helped off the field after Mariota scored on a 10-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. Gordon collided with Mariota on the goal line and stayed on the ground. Unlike Brisker, however, he didn’t return in the fourth quarter.
The NFL’s concussion proceedings have come under intense scrutiny this season after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagavailoa was allowed to return to the field after taking a heavy hit during a a Week 3 win over the Buffalo Bills. Tagavailoa shook his head, stumbled and was particularly wobbly after taking that hit. But after Dolphins medical staff and an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant evaluated it, the team ultimately ruled it was an old problem. Tagavailoa finished that game and was allowed to start against the Cincinnati Bengals four nights later.
In that game, Tagavailoa was thrown to the turf by a Bengals defender, hit his head, and went into the fencing response, which occurs when the brain absorbs significant force.
The NFL launched an investigation and subsequently changed its concussion rules, prohibiting any player who, during a game, exhibits ataxia – abnormal balance or stability, motor coordination or speech dysfunctional caused by a neurological problem – to come back.
“If a guy is visibly weakened, you have to protect him,” Bears linebacker Nicholas Morrow told the Tribune last month. “There is a responsibility on both sides. (As) players, we need to be aware of how we approach protocols, but it also needs to be executed with the utmost efficiency.
Yet even with increased caution, a player’s desire to return to the field can sometimes complicate matters.
NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills acknowledged last month that despite increased caution and procedures, the possibility of players returning to the field after sustaining a concussion remains.
“We always want to err on the side of taking players out and evaluating them and keeping them out if they can get hurt,” Sills told the Tribune. “Diagnosing a concussion remains difficult. Even today in 2022, with all of our technology and understanding we have, we still have to rely very heavily on patient self-reported symptoms.
“I’ve been a neurosurgeon for over 30 years, and I’ll tell you that there are cases where the diagnosis is very easy and straightforward, but there are others where it’s very difficult to do, and we We still have a lot to learn about these difficult cases and what is and is not a concussion.
The statuses of Brisker, Gordon and Weatherford for Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium will be worth watching as the week progresses.