Though he isn’t the only one, and he isn’t the one that ultimately makes the call from a medical standpoint, Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien has received some criticism for the way his team’s quarterback, Tom Savage, was handled on Sunday.
Savage took a hard hit in his own end zone in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers. As he fell backward from the Elvis Dumervil tackle, the back of Savage’s head slammed against the turf.
As he rolled over, Savage’s hands were visibly shaking. Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain tweeted on Sunday evening that Savage did not have a seizure, as some had speculated, but it was nonetheless a scary sign of the brain injury he’d suffered.
On Monday, O’Brien opened his day-after press conference with a long statement, explaining the chain of events that led to Savage being evaluated, allowed to go back into the game, and then re-evaluated and pulled.
He also said had he known, he would not have let Savage back into the game.
“I had no idea,” O’Brien said in part. “I figured that he got hit, really didn’t know he got hit, there’s 12 bodies around him. Very, very difficult from the 50-yard line where I’m standing to see if he even got hit. With benefit of the video – I which I do not have benefit of any video; there’s no video on the sideline. All there are are tablets.
“With benefit of seeing the video, obviously from my standpoint, the care for the player, I would’ve never let that player back in the game, and I don’t believe that [Texans’ head medical trainer] Geoff Kaplan would’ve allowed that player back in the game. I don’t have benefit of the video. I did not see anything.”
O’Brien detailed that the medical staff on the sideline (there’s an independent concussion spotter in a booth watching over each game), took Savage into the pop-up medical tent for a couple of minutes, “not very long period of time,” the coach said, and then give Savage the green light to return to play.
So O’Brien huddled up with the quarterback in anticipation of his return to play, but after the Texans’ went three-and-out with Savage back on the field, medical personnel circled back and said they were going to evaluate Savage again.
This time, he was pulled from the game.
“At no point in my coaching career, 25 years of coaching — I’ve been at Brown University, I’ve been at Georgia Tech, I’ve been at Duke, I’ve been at University of Maryland, I’ve been the head coach at Penn State and the head coach here — at no point in time is there anything more important to me than the safety of our players,” O’Brien insisted. “I love our players and I care about them and I cannot stand when players get injured.
“Again, without seeing the video that people are seeing, I would’ve never put him back in the game. But I don’t see that. I’m not passing the buck. Anybody that’s been on the sideline of a football game knows that, from a coaching standpoint, you really can’t see things like that, especially when the ball’s in certain areas of the field.”
NFL Players Association executive George Atallah tweeted on Monday that the union is “initiating a full review” of what happened with Savage. The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, initiated a review of the incident on Sunday.
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