BEREA: In the continued absence of a definitive answer from the Browns on whether quarterback Colt McCoy was tested for a concussion Thursday night in Pittsburgh, I can only go by what I see.
And what I saw indicated that he was not.
After Steelers linebacker James Harrison bashed the crown of his helmet into McCoy’s face mask with 5:49 remaining in the Browns’ 14-3 loss, I trained my binoculars on McCoy when he came to the sideline.
No members of the medical staff were looking at McCoy face-to-face, examining his eyes. Two men stood at his side. Perhaps they were asking him questions like ‘Where are you?’ and ‘What day is it?’ It was impossible to tell whether there was a conversation going on.
But twice in a matter of seconds McCoy bent over at the waist like he was nauseous. It was enough to make me suspect a concussion.
Of course, I’d seen Harrison’s vicious hit in all its HD glory on a press box television. Apparently no member of the Browns’ coaching, medical or training staffs had a clue as to the violent nature of the collision, which drew a roughing-the-passer penalty on Harrison for helmet-to-helmet contact. All they knew was that McCoy was saying his left hand hurt.
McCoy missed only two plays. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Monday that trainer Joe Sheehan told him McCoy had been deemed ready to return. Shurmur said Friday that he learned when he was leaving the locker room that McCoy was displaying symptoms of a concussion.
That’s when the missteps began, missteps that have left the Browns scrambling to explain how they handled McCoy’s concussion to the league office and perhaps to McCoy’s father Brad.
Lights too bright
McCoy never should have been brought to the interview podium, especially since a Browns spokesman requested that lights on the television cameras be turned off and advised that the session would be brief. The remark about the lights led one television newsman to tweet that McCoy had a concussion, which was later denied by the team. McCoy answered questions about his costly interception three plays after he returned, but his face looked blotchy and he didn’t seem to be feeling well. Questions went on longer than they should have.
Apparently the Browns learned nothing from quarterback Tim Couch’s debacle after a game against the Baltimore Ravens in 2002, when the No. 1 overall pick cried in a postgame interview after suffering a concussion, upset that fans cheered when he went down. I guess that’s because there might be no one left in Berea from 2002 except for owner Randy Lerner. McCoy became another casualty of the Browns’ lack of continuity.
When the Beacon Journal phoned the same Browns spokesman at 2:30 a.m., he reiterated that McCoy did not have a concussion.
Now the Browns have retreated into a bunker following a report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen Sunday that McCoy was not tested for a concussion until Friday morning. Shurmur would not confirm or deny that Monday, saying, “We followed all the proper medical procedures. I don’t know what got reported other than what you’re telling me now.”
The Browns denied requests from media outlets to speak to a member of the medical staff or President Mike Holmgren. Presumably that’s because they’re still in the midst of the league’s inquiry. There might be HIPAA (health information privacy) issues to consider. They have an angry father on their hands. They might be thanking their lucky stars — not the ones McCoy was seeing — that McCoy wasn’t hit again after he returned, which might have precipitated a lawsuit.
Shurmur does not seem culpable because he relied on the information his trainer gave him. Tight end Ben Watson and fullback Owen Marecic were diagnosed with concussions against the Steelers and did not return. The trainers seemed to be concentrating on McCoy’s hand injury because of his complaints about it.
But the Browns lied about McCoy’s condition in the wee hours of Friday morning and have been fumbling ever since. Even an explanation as to why they cannot talk might have helped them save face. But at the moment, even with highly respected Holmgren in charge, the organization looks more dysfunctional than the one ex-owner Art Modell ran.
The incident leaves the Browns with another black eye, just like the one it took when a team spokesman told reporters in Oakland that running back Peyton Hillis was not injured, leading to a Twitter frenzy and speculation on CBS that he’d been benched. Shurmur later revealed that Hillis had suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter. Hillis’ problem was not announced until the third quarter.
Shurmur also contributed to the drama over Hillis’ case of strep throat in September when he failed to strongly emphasize how sick Hillis was.
To a man, Browns players staunchly supported the training staff Monday.
“I tell that to these guys all the time, best training staff hands down that I’ve been around,” 10-year veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “Guys get the utmost treatment and respect, no matter where you stand, from a free agent to a first-rounder. It’s unbelievable.
“That’s why it’s kind of crazy to me that we sit here and talk about this nonsense today. I know how this training staff behaves and the work ethic and the seriousness [with which] they take their job.”
A hard-working member of that staff might end up being the scapegoat, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. But since the Browns failed to properly handle Hillis’ strep throat and hamstring injury, a professional resolution to this without the league’s rescue seems out of the question.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://marla.ohio.com/. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarlaRidenour. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.