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Phil Sheridan: Kolb, Bradley concussions: Two heads-up calls Reid missed

On a day overflowing with bad decisions, the most serious had nothing to do with roster moves or football strategy.

Kevin Kolb reacts after being sacked in first half. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photograher)
Kevin Kolb reacts after being sacked in first half. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photograher)Read more

On a day overflowing with bad decisions, the most serious had nothing to do with roster moves or football strategy.

The Eagles got very lucky with Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley on Sunday.

If either of them had taken a hit after returning to the game despite concussions, the Eagles' coaches and medical staff could be answering some much tougher questions today than whether Michael Vick will start at quarterback next week.

First Kolb, then Bradley left the game after taking blows to the head in the second quarter. First Bradley, then Kolb returned to the game. Bradley was at middle linebacker for several plays on the Packers' drive that ended in a touchdown catch by Donald Driver. After a press box announcement that he had a "jaw" injury, Kolb threw three passes for 7 yards on a three-and-out possession near the end of the first half.

"They were fine," coach Andy Reid said after the game. "All the questions that they answered and the things they did with the docs registered well. As it went on, they weren't feeling well so we took them out."

When the teams came back for the second half, it was announced that both players had concussions and would not return.

This stunning turnaround contributed to the general sense of disarray on a day when the Eagles almost ran out of offensive linemen and looked confused and disorganized right from the illegal-formation penalty on their first offensive play. But this was much more serious, since it meant two players had been needlessly placed in harm's way.

Ten, 20, 30 years ago, this would have been business as usual in the NFL. But it was a bad business, and the league has finally stepped out of the Dark Ages when it comes to brain injuries and their consequences. Last December, the league issued stricter guidelines for dealing with concussions during games.

The Eagles didn't allow media to talk to Kolb or Bradley. No one from the medical staff was made available after the game.

If the Eagles didn't violate the letter of those guidelines, they trampled all over the spirit of rules meant to protect players.

"He wants to be out there with us," safety Quintin Mikell said of Bradley. "He was fighting it, but at a certain point, it can't be in our hands to make that decision. Because if it was up to us, we would go out there and kill ourselves to play. And that's what we want around here. We're warriors."

Everyone acknowledges this is tricky. There is a lot of gray area when it comes to the gray matter. There is no certain way to know whether a player is at more risk by returning to a game after being concussed.

But come on. Everyone in Lincoln Financial Field knew that Bradley had a concussion. He got up after a collision with teammate Ernie Sims, teetered like a vaudevillian portraying a drunken sailor and fell back down.

Kolb's case was tougher to read. He was run down from behind by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, fumbled the ball, and landed face-first. Kolb was slow to get up. After medical staffers checked his condition on the sideline, Kolb threw some warm-up passes.

"I figured he could go back in," Vick said, "but on the next possession he said he wasn't seeing things clearly. So he opted to come out, and that was probably the smart thing to do."

According to the NFL's guidelines, a player with a concussion shouldn't return to the game if he loses consciousness, is confused or unable to respond to questions, or experiences amnesia or persistent dizziness, headache, or vertigo - among a list of other symptoms.

I don't have an M.D., and I didn't have the chance to examine either player. The bottom line, though, is that Kolb and Bradley were both deemed unable to return to the game by the very same medical staff that cleared them a few minutes earlier. That certainly suggests they should have been kept out of the game entirely. Given the timing - late in the second quarter - it would have been simple enough to hold them out until halftime.

The NFL's new guidelines call for a series of tests over five days and examination by a neutral (read: not team-associated) specialist before concussed players can return to the field. If they can't practice all week, Kolb and Bradley are probably long shots to play in Detroit next Sunday.

That's bad luck for them - especially Kolb, who urgently needs to erase his first-half performance from the collective memory of his teammates, coaches, and the fans. It is bad luck for an Eagles team that lost a handful of players on this nightmare opening day.

But neither Kolb nor Bradley took a second, more serious shot to the head while they were in a game they shouldn't have been in. They and the Eagles are very, very lucky about that.