When Troy Aikman watched Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley stagger and fall trying to get up following his concussioncausing collision with teammate Ernie Sims in the second quarter of Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Packers, the Fox analyst said what millions of viewers watching at home were thinking.
"I have to tell you, Joe," he said to his booth partner Joe Buck, "it's hard to imagine him coming back into this game in light of what we just saw. With all the attention being given head injuries, it's hard to imagine he'll be put back in."
But four plays later, there was Bradley, jogging back into the huddle.
A big reason the Eagles' medical and training staffs allowed Bradley to return to the game was because they didn't see what you and I saw. According to NFL Players Association medical director Thom Mayer, no one who treated Bradley on the sideline saw his drunken sailor routine after he collided with Sims.
"Apparently, the Eagles' trainers and team physicians didn't see Stewart's hit, and I'm not sure it was communicated clearly to them that he had struggled to get up and had fallen back down; that probably should've been communicated to them," Mayer said.
Mayer pointed out that the Eagles properly followed the return-to-play concussion guidelines developed by the league, the union and outside medical experts. But he said that if they had seen the whole episode with Bradley after he got hurt, it might've influenced their decision to let him go back into the game.
"It certainly raised my suspicion that he wouldn't be going back in the game," said Mayer, who was watching the game on TV when Bradley got hurt. "But from what we've heard from the trainers and the team physicians is that the [sideline] exam was normal."
Mayer said that the reason the trainers and doctors didn't see Bradley's injury or the aftermath of it was because they were tending to quarterback Kevin Kolb, who also had suffered a concussion six plays earlier when he was sacked by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
At his news conference yesterday, head coach Andy Reid admitted he didn't see Bradley stumble and fall to the ground until later when he saw a replay of it.
"I didn't see the whole event live there," he said.
Reid said the reason Bradley was later removed from the game was because "he was showing signs of symptoms [of a concussion] when he came back off, the second time [trainer] Rick [Burkholder] evaluated him."
Reid wouldn't say what those symptoms were, but Mayer said the linebacker had amnesia.
"It turns out that he later had amnesia for the event," he said. "So that's part of the reason he was pulled from the game."
Amnesia is one of the concussion symptoms listed by the league for prohibiting a player from returning to a game.
Reid said both Bradley and Kolb were examined and tested by the team's training and medical staffs before returning to the game, and were tested again when they returned to the sideline.
"We didn't just stick them out there without having followed the [league] protocol," Reid said. "We also made sure we stayed on top of it when they came back off the field and made the decision [to remove them] when the symptoms were there."
Bradley initially sat out just three plays before briefly returning to the game. When he was checked again by Burkholder the next time he came back to the sideline, the amnesia was discovered.
"There's two pieces here," Mayer said. "One, were the guidelines followed? In general, they were. But the fact that they didn't know or have a description of what happened [with Bradley] probably needs to be looked at more carefully.