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NFL & NFLPA checking into whether Patrick Chung played with a concussion

If Patrick Chung went back into the Jaguars game after suffering a concussion, that’s...not great.

New England Patriots v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

All right, who said a few weeks ago that we’re due for a Patriots scandal? I know somebody did. SHOW YOURSELF!

Jokes aside, because nobody wants to see their favorite players get clocked in the head like we did before we knew better, this report from Pro Football Talk could easily explained with a couple questions, or it could be...well, if you’ve been following the Patriots for more than a couple seasons now, you know what it could turn into.

Basically, Patrick Chung came out of the Jags game in the second quarter right after a big hit with tight end Niles Paul, who was lead-blocking on the play, then Chung came back in after only missing one play (eventually giving up a TD to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins), and then Pat didn’t return after halftime. The Patriots announced Chung was out with a concussion, and that’s where this gets dicey:

From the PFT Report:

But did he (Chung) suffer the concussion before he left the game the first time? If so, he should have been pulled from the game immediately, and his return to the game violated league policies. The league and the players’ union are looking into the matter.

“A joint review by the NFL and NFLPA of the application of the Concussion Protocol regarding New England safety Patrick Chung during the Patriots-Jaguars game is underway,” the league said in a statement.

For reference purposes, here’s how the concussion protocol is *supposed* to work. Gotta emphasize “supposed to” here, because in practice...well, if you ever had a friend who went to college at a “dry” campus, you know what I mean.

From SB Nation’s breakdown of the policy (emphasis theirs):

1) When a potential concussion is identified, the player shall be removed immediately from the field.

2) The NFL team physician and the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant will:

a. Review video of the play

b. Perform a focused neurological examination

3) If there is suspicion of a concussion, the player will be escorted to the locker room for a full assessment.

4) If the player is diagnosed with a concussion, there is no same-day return to play.

5) If the player passes the exam, he will be monitored for symptoms throughout the game.

Seems straightforward enough. It also seems like there’s enough room in that process where both outcomes are equally possible; if protocol was followed, it’s certainly possible that Chung passed the exam, but came out later anyway after they kept an eye on him, and it’s also possible that (gulp) they put him back in knowing he got his bell rung.

Meanwhile, Bill Belichick reiterated that he wasn’t in charge of medical decisions.

Q: With Patrick Chung, do you know what happened to him specifically? He came off the field for one play and then returned before being ruled out at halftime. Do you know why he wasn’t checked for a concussion at any point during the second quarter?

BB: Yeah, that’s really a medical question that I can’t answer. If the player is medically cleared to play, then it’s a coaching decision. If he’s not medically cleared then it’s not a coaching decision. We’re out of it. It’s a medical decision. It really falls into one of those two categories.

Q: Do you know if he started showing signs of a concussion at halftime?

BB: It was a medical decision. If he’s not cleared to play then it doesn’t have anything to do with the coaching. He’s not cleared to play.

Q: I just was wondering if you had any insight into what actually happened.

BB: I just tried to explain that. When he’s not cleared to play then he’s not in the game. If he’s cleared to play and wasn’t taken out of the game medically then it would be a coaching decision whether to play him or not.

Q: Did you get any explanation about why the team doctors didn’t check Patrick Chung for a concussion upon his initial exit from the game?

BB: Look, I don’t know whether they did or didn’t. Those are medical procedures, Ben [Volin], and some of that is dictated by things from upstairs from the neutral physician and then that goes to our medical department. I’m trying to coach the game. I don’t have time for a conversation with those guys. If the player is cleared, he’s cleared. If he’s not cleared then he’s not cleared.

We’ll keep you posted if anything else comes up with this story. Hopefully, we’re on to Detroit.