There's much ado about concussions.
And rightly so. No one is endorsing the enabling of a generation of mindless former gridiron gods, lest we can prevent it. Last I checked, though, what words the teams of the allegedly concussed players choose to use in press conferences is the least of the problem.
Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette recently asked whether Steelers SS Troy Polamalu suffered a concussion during the first quarter of Pittsburgh's 13-9 win over Kansas City.
That brought out one of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's favorite phrases, one for which he's criticized.
"He had concussion-like symptoms."
The use of that phrase instantly conjures skepticism from the media - a group that's apparently far more schooled in medicine than we may have guessed. The overlying thought, as Bouchette questions, is if it has feathers, webbed feet and quacks, it's a duck.
If he has concussion-like symptoms and he got hit in the head, he must have suffered a concussion, right?
What's the difference?
If having CLS (concussion-like symptoms) requires a player to sit the remainder of the game despite all medically trained personnel saying those symptoms were gone by the start of the second half, and the player is still subjected to tests to confirm he's still asymptomatic, Tomlin's use of the catch-phrase CLS seems appropriate.
This is the reality of the NFL. If a player has a concussion, he shouldn't be playing. If he merely showed some symptoms of a concussion - but those symptoms are no longer present - Tomlin is simply diffusing the power of the buzz-word the media themselves have imposed.
This says nothing of the fact the injury report does not require any coach to list the nitty gritty details of any injury. According to the rules, coaches are required to grade the injury on a scale of Out, Doubtful, Questionable and Probable, then list the general area of the injury. Some call it a "knee" injury, some call it a "leg" injury. It's hard to believe a team's medical staff is unsure whether his ankle or knee is what's injured, but they list "leg" because the injury isn't in his "shoulder."
Why does anyone need to know anything else?
Nowhere in the rules is the coach required to study the nature of the injury and provide a scientific explanation as to what happened to the player, how he's likely to respond and how that may affect his future playing time, earning potential or ability to run for Congress.
Tomlin owes nothing to the media outside of the rules he follows every game.
I don't claim to be Tomlin's biographer, but judging by his background, he does not appear to be a medical professional. He's required to report on the status of his players pertaining to the upcoming game. The team is required to ensure the safety of its players in regards to head injuries, and Tomlin has not blown off that responsibility.
If he's admitting something happened to Polamalu's head during the game, did not allow Polamalu to return to the game and is ok with team trainers running him through the league-mandated battery of tests in order to be cleared to play, what difference does it make if he calls it CLS or a straight-up concussion?
He's not breaking any rules. Let's cut the Al Michaels "Steelers East German-like approach to disclosing information" dramatics. I would hope Marvin Lewis has watched film of the Steelers win over Kansas City, and I'm going to trust he noticed Polamalu wasn't on the field. He's probably heard Polamalu was ok after the game, therefore, he knows enough to reasonably expect today that Polamalu will play Sunday. He'll follow the injury reports, and if Polamalu takes a turn for the worse, he'll know that based on the status Tomlin will designate.
Tomlin has no competitive advantage. He can't hide anything relevant to the next game, and that's what the rules outline. If there are media types that feel Tomlin or any coach owes them something (this isn't a criticism of Bouchette, he simply asked the question), they're mistaken.
The real problem is they paint both Tomlin and the Steelers organization as insensitive to the safety of their players in regards to head injuries. That's irresponsible. Just because Mike Florio has to guess about the validity of the injury, instead of getting off his butt and investigating like a real journalist, doesn't mean he has the justification to openly criticize Tomlin or the Steelers approach to protecting their players.
I don't claim to be a medical professional either, but if Florio's main contention is Steelers players who suffer apparent head injuries remain on the sideline with their team (because, you know, they're part of the team) instead of immediately rushing to the locker room to be treated, then I fail to see what the problem is. If he's not in the game, it seems the responsible action has been done.
As someone who's had multiple concussions, the best thing you can do immediately after the injury occurs is discontinue whatever it is you're doing that's causing you to get hit in the head, and stay awake.
Let's not lose site of reality, here. Polamalu did not play the rest of the game. Hines Ward was removed from the Steelers Week 9 game against Baltimore after suffering a hit to the head. Ward was yanked from a game last season after taking a shot to the head.
Tomlin's choice to not bring on more criticism by injecting his opinion on the largely unknown nature of head injuries seems both responsible and wise. There isn't anything either illegal or immoral about his use of CLS. He's not paid to make sure Florio has something to write about. If the story is the way in which Tomlin is speaking about something he's not qualified to speak on, then write about how coaches should be medical experts as well.
Otherwise, get over yourselves and let the doctors handle it.