The reaction to Bell's hit illustrates a new awareness regarding the seriousness of head trauma

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell sustained a concussion after a vicious collision with Baltimore's Jimmy Smith last Thursday. I believe the concern for Bell's welfare, by players and fans alike, shows a heightened awareness regarding the seriousness of the head trauma that NFL players sustain on a regular basis.

I still think Le'Veon Bell's touchdown should have counted in the Steelers' 22-20 loss at Baltimore Thanksgiving night. Not because Bell took a vicious hit and "earned" the score. No. I think it should have counted because the spirit of the dislodged helmet rule wasn't designed for such a play. It was designed to prevent players from trying to gain extra yardage once their protective head gear is no longer a part of their uniform.

But that's a post for another day.

As every Steelers fan knows by now, Bell, the rookie running back out of Michigan St., was the main protagonist of a chilling play on Thursday in which his helmet flew off after a violent helmet-to-helmet collision with the Ravens' Jimmy Smith. Without his helmet to protect him, Bell's head bounced off the turf of M&T Bank Stadium after falling into the end zone.

Bell lay motionless as several players on both teams knelt in silence while he was being attended to by Pittsburgh's trainers. Tight end Heath Miller even shooed a cameraman away as he tried to video-tape what was transpiring.

Bell walked off the field, wobbling with each step, and would later be diagnosed with a concussion.

I usually follow twitter on my phone as I watch NFL games, and after the hit, my feed was filled with tweets and retweets from fans and media members wishing Bell the best.

The Ravens Torrey Smith even reached out to Bell via Twitter and offered his thoughts and support after the game.

The reaction as a whole to Bell's hit and concussion is refreshing, and in a way, kind of ironic, considering that just four years earlier in the lead-up to a Sunday night game in Baltimore on Thanksgiving weekend, there was a huge controversy following remarks former Steelers receiver Hines Ward made in an interview with Bob Costas.

The remarks were about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a concussion in a game in Kansas City a week earlier and wasn't cleared to play against the Ravens. According to Ward, his teammates were '50-50' on Roethlisberger missing such a crucial AFC North clash.

During the interview, Ward used phrases like "just a concussion" and revealed that he lied to doctors and played with such injuries in the past.

Ward later back-tracked on his statements, saying, among other things, "you don't want to mess around with concussions," but I'm inclined to believe Ward was offering a more honest assessment of his opinions on head trauma in the initial interview with Costas. And if the Steelers' locker room really was divided about whether or not Roethlisberger should have played while still suffering from the effects of a concussion, Ward's attitude was one that was shared by a lot of players, an attitude that more than likely came about due to ignorance.

I've said many times that I used to view concussions as a minor injury back when I was a young NFL fan, and that sentiment was shared by countless others who watched, coached and played football.

I remember the late Ray Mansfield sharing a story about a former Steelers teammate who was on the receiving end of a hard hit by Dick Butkus, the Bears legendary linebacker. During Mansfield's story, he laughed as he recalled this player saying "I don't know who I am!" as he was being attended to by team trainers.

Remember the Snickers commercial from the 90s that portrayed a concussed football player exclaiming "I'm Batman" when the coach asked him who he was? Don't get me wrong, it was (and still is) a pretty funny commercial, but I think it illustrated quite perfectly the ignorance society once had regarding concussions.

Finally, while football will always be an inherently dangerous sport, regardless of the new rules and regulations to protect players, if those associated with football--including the players, coaches and fans--start to recognize the seriousness of head trauma, perhaps more players will be less inclined to lie to doctors about having a concussion, and maybe their teammates will be 100 percent behind the idea of missing a game--even a crucial AFC North clash.

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