Chiefs quarterback Ricky Stanzi once suffered a concussion while playing at the University of Iowa, but he didn’t tell anyone about it, or come out of the game.
His symptoms were different — and less severe — than those experienced by Chiefs teammate and fellow quarterback Brady Quinn, who suffered a concussion during a game at Arrowhead Stadium last month.
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But Stanzi said he felt the same pressure as Quinn to remain in the lineup.
“I just kept my mouth shut about it,” Stanzi said. “I didn’t want to come out of the game. It’s a tough situation. You can debate about it all day.”
Quinn kept to himself about the concussion he suffered during the Chiefs’ Oct. 28 game against Oakland despite experiencing symptoms that affected his vision. Quinn took three snaps after the injury, absorbing big hits on two of them.
Quinn, who said on Wednesday that he’s still battling effects from the concussion, didn’t inform the Chiefs’ coaches or medical personnel about his symptoms in part because he was making just his second NFL start in the last three seasons. He didn’t want to spoil his shot at finally breaking through for additional playing time.
Thus, coach Romeo Crennel said the Chiefs weren’t aware that Quinn was injured until they pulled him from the game.
“Sometimes, what happens in the course of a game if a guy gets dinged up and he’s not acting the way he should act, other players around notice it. And then, when they come to the side(line), they’ll say, ‘Look at this guy. He’s not quite right.’ Then we’ll take a look at him,” Crennel said.
“In the Quinn situation, that’s what occurred. The players noticed he wasn’t right and they informed us he wasn’t right. Then we looked at him and talked to him and found out he had an issue, and then he was taken out of the game.”
Matt Cassel, who also suffered a concussion this season (Oct. 7 against the Baltimore Ravens) will start Monday night’s game at Pittsburgh. With Quinn still unavailable, Stanzi will be the backup.
Quinn was injured in the first quarter against the Raiders when he was hit by linebacker Philip Wheeler on a scramble up the middle. Then, he was hit again after throwing a pass on the next play, which was third down; the Chiefs punted the ball away on fourth down.
“At that point, I kind of noticed a loss of vision,” Quinn said Wednesday. “I started to get tunnel vision. I just tried to keep playing, thinking it would go away. It didn’t.”
He came back into the game for a couple of plays after the Chiefs got the ball back. But as he returned to the field at that point, he had to retreat to the sideline because he grabbed the wrong helmet.
With the correct helmet finally on, he was sacked on the first play of that drive by Oakland’s Rolando McClain, who came from Quinn’s front side and should have been in Quinn’s field of vision. But he wasn’t.
“On the sack, I couldn’t even see (McClain) coming off the edge,” said Quinn, who also said he suffered a concussion during the Chiefs’ Aug. 30 preseason game at Green Bay. “I tried to play through it, thinking it was going to go away. That was my fault for not being smarter. It actually got worse after that hit.”
Quinn said that the two concussions, roughly eight weeks apart, were the first of his six-year NFL career.
Crennel said that as a practical matter, he is informed by trainer Dave Price when a player is injured and should be removed from the game. Crennel said that’s what happened in Quinn’s situation. The coach also said he was disappointed that Quinn didn’t inform Price sooner of his impaired vision.
“I would expect they would come and say something about that rather than go back into the game knowing they could possibly injure themselves,” Crennel said. “The performance of the team might be affected as well. But the main focus is the safety of the player. We have to educate the players about that fact that the league has taken a strong stance on it and we are concerned about their safety.
“We don’t expect them to be macho guys in that respect. If you’re injured, come tell us and then we’ll put somebody else in the game rather than risk your injury. There’s a thin line that we have to walk, that the players have to walk. But they have to understand there’s a phrase, an old phrase as it relates to football, about knowing the difference between pain and injury.”
Crennel can talk about that line all he wants, but do players listen? Obviously, on that afternoon, Quinn didn’t. Neither did Stanzi when he was concussed during a game at Arizona in his senior season at Iowa.
“It was a light one,” Stanzi said of his concussion, noting that he was able to play in the Hawkeyes’ game the following week. “It wasn’t like I forgot everything or didn’t know what I was doing. I just wasn’t myself. I was just a little off.
“They’re scary, depending on how intense they are.”
The NFL has precautions in place for players showing signs of a possible concussion. A player is not allowed back into practice or a game on the same day that he shows any of several symptoms, including a loss of consciousness, confusion, loss of memory, dizziness or headaches.
Even after that, a player is not allowed to return to practice or games until he is free of concussion-related symptoms.
“That’s what’s good about what the NFL is doing,” Stanzi said. “They’re progressing using the resources we have. We have doctors on hand and people watching, seeing these hits. So when you come to the sideline, you can feel more comfortable about it. The awareness is different now. There’s not that, ‘Hey, get back in the game (because) we don’t care.’ People are trying to make sure guys can live their life after football.
“I think that changes how you look at it as a player. No player wants to leave a game once you’re in it, but there are injuries, and they’re part of the game.”
Perhaps, but Quinn’s situation underscores how difficult it can be to notice the symptoms of a concussion unless the player in question reveals them himself.
“You don’t feel you need to (come out of the game),” Stanzi said. “You don’t feel you’re hurting your team (by staying in the game). That’s kind of how you (judge) it.”