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Players Union President Slams NFL Coaches For Trivializing Concussions

NFLPA president Eric Winston blasted two head coaches for calling concussions "mild" and asserting that media attention has made them "linger longer."

The post Players Union President Slams NFL Coaches For Trivializing Concussions appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis

CREDIT: AP

Eric Winston, a former NFL offensive lineman and now the president of the NFL Players Association, took to Twitter on Thursday to slam Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera for trivializing concussions suffered by players in a game between the two teams Sunday.

In that game, Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin collided with Bengals lineback Vontaze Burfict in a play that left both concussed. After the game, Rivera said he believed Benjamin’s concussion was “mild,” reiterating that, “Yes, I called it mild,” according to ESPN’s David Newton. Lewis made an even more controversial comment during a news conference Wednesday about Burfict’s brain injury, insinuating that media attention given to concussions now makes them “linger” longer than they used to.

“He had a concussion against Atlanta,” Lewis said of Burfict, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s the biggest concern. You don’t want him to have … again, I coached defense and linebackers for a long time and concussions didn’t linger. Now we’ve found that because of the media and things they seem to linger longer. There’s a lot of attention paid to it. I don’t know why they linger longer, but I don’t remember them lingering like they do now.”

Winston, the union president, criticized both in a three-tweet sequence Thursday morning:


Always good to see the NFL educating their HCs on health/safety. Glad they are taking the lead on serious issues like concussions. #sarcasm

— Eric Winston (@ericwinston) October 15, 2014

You don't have a "mild" concussion. You either have one or you don't.

— Eric Winston (@ericwinston) October 15, 2014

Perpetuating the idea that it's the medias fault that concussions "longer" longer just shows how far we still have to go in educating every1

— Eric Winston (@ericwinston) October 15, 2014

The comments from both coaches underscore why players and advocates for better management of concussions pushed for so long to take return-to-play decisions regarding potentially concussed players away from coaches — the NFL now has independent doctors on each sideline and players suspected of suffering a concussion are required to undergo an examination in the lockerroom before the doctor can clear them to return. That program can still have its problems, and Burfict returned to play in Sunday’s game, but it’s an improvement over leaving it entirely in the hands of coaches, especially as this incident, as Winston noted, shows that the NFL has a long way to go to properly educate its personnel on concussions.

The injuries, of course, aren’t lingering longer than they used to because of the media, but because the attention the NFL has gotten over concussions has forced the league to take them more seriously. The NFL is still facing scrutiny, however, from players who played in the past over the settlement it reached with more than 4,500 NFL veterans who sued over the league’s past treatment of concussions. The deadline for players to opt-out of the settlement came and passed this week, with most players reportedly deciding not to opt-out. But there are notable exceptions that remain critical of the league. The family of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau opted-out, as did the family of former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson. The settlement has been criticized for not properly compensating former players and for essentially ignoring chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease that is thought to be linked to concussions in former players. “I’m opting out because people in my era, we’re gonna get nothing — zero,” Joe DeLamielleure, a former offensive lineman, told ESPN this week.

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