It appears Jamaal Charles paid a small price for his dynamic 16-yard scoring run that made him the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher on Sunday.
In a radio interview with ESPN’s Dan Le Batard on Tuesday, Charles admitted he might be experiencing symptoms of a mild concussion after the play, which ended with a massive collision with Chargers cornerback and former teammate Brandon Flowers.
“It definitely hurt,” Charles said of the hit. “A couple of plays later, I just saw light buzzes around my eyes and I was trying to catch them. But I was like ... ‘Let’s get the ball and run again.’”
Flashing lights are a symptom of a mild concussion, but Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder insisted Wednesday that the team not only followed proper concussion procedure after the play — which Charles cleared — but has also been vigilant about diagnosing a possible concussion in the days afterward.
“I came back and checked with him, consulted with our team physician. He was absolutely asymptomatic, wasn’t complaining about anything,” Burkholder said. Went through the game, and obviously we check on those guys as they come off almost every series. Nothing.”
Burkholder said he also checked on Charles after the game, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid spent a “good amount of time” with Charles on the airplane with no issues. He said Charles also worked out with the team’s strength coaches on Monday and lifted and ran with no symptoms.
Burkholder said the team decided to put Charles through three separate concussion tests once it found out about the comments Charles made on the radio Tuesday. The first was the SCAT3, a sports concussion assessment tool that Charles passed.
The second was the ImPACT Test, which is a computer neurocognitive test that Burkholder says is based out of Pittsburgh.
“During the World Series (Tuesday), I was on the phone with the neuropsychologist in Pittsburgh going over the test to make sure (Charles) was back to his baseline, which he was,” Burkholder said.
They also gave Charles a test called ICE, which is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s initial concussion evaluation test.
“We had baseline on him from before based on his concussion last year, and he passed that,” Burkholder said. “So, as of last night it looked like he didn’t have a concussion.”
Charles has a history of concussions. He was forced to leave the Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Colts in January because of one, though he stated a month later that he did not believe he had a concussion at the time.
Charles told ESPN Radio the same thing about the Flowers hit from Sunday.
“I didn’t have a concussion,” Charles said. “It definitely was a hit that shocked me. I don’t think I had to go through the concussion protocols and all that because I didn’t want to go through that again, like what happened (in) the playoffs. I was definitely fine. I think I came out pretty good.”
Charles also told ESPN Radio that he saw flashbacks from when he was a kid following the play, but insisted that he was fine to continue. He had 13 carries for 42 yards and two catches for 12 yards after the hit and even spoke at length with reporters after the game, which is his custom.
“It definitely wasn’t a concussion, because if it was a concussion, I wouldn’t be able to remember the plays or remember my teammates’ names or what sideline to go to,” Charles said. “I definitely remember everything. It was just a huge hit.”
The Chiefs did not make Charles available on Wednesday, but he did practice. Burkholder said the club came to that conclusion after its independent neuro consult from the National Football League.
“Everybody — all the experts involved — and our medical team feel like he didn’t have a concussion,” Charles said. “We’re going to monitor him the next couple of days. It was the advice of the independent to have him practice today, and then be in contact with that independent tonight.
“We’re not classifying him as having a concussion. But as with all of our players, I’ll monitor him as he goes.”
While Charles is apparently fine, the situation still shines a light on how players might try to hide concussion symptoms to avoid being taken out of the game.
Reid, for his part, believes his players are honest about their health, on the whole.
“I think for the most part, they’re pretty forthright with everything,” Reid said. “I’m not going to get into all that, but I mean, these guys are pretty honest guys.”
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said the same.
“I’ve never known anybody to lie or fake (their health) or anything like that,” Smith said. “Certainly, guys want to help the team, and I don’t think anybody is gonna be out there if they don’t think they can do that.”
Smith took it a step further, adding that teammates look out for each other in such cases.
“I think the other 10 guys in the huddle would even say something if they saw otherwise,” Smith said. “So I’ve never known that (to happen). Guys want to go out there, they want to be accountable, they want to help their team, but whatever it may be, if you can’t get it done, you don’t want to be out there because you don’t want to let your teammates down.”