In a month where the concussion issue in the NFL is about to get unprecedented scrutiny due to the upcoming Christmas Day release of the movie "Concussion" starring Will Smith and based on the life's work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the discoverer of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and public enemy number one of the NFL, the impact of concussions in the NFL has come to roost in a very acute way here in Houston over the last four weeks.
At his press conference yesterday, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien announced that starting quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion during Sunday night's 27-6 loss to the New England Patriots. It's Hoyer's second concussion within the last month, as he also suffered one in the Monday night game four weeks ago in Cincinnati. (Memo to Brian Hoyer: For prime time games, wear a thicker helmet.)
Hoyer also suffered a strained neck and some sort of wrist injury, according to O'Brien. "He took a beating last night," O'Brien said. "I think they were checking him out for all the various injuries."
Ok, so what dies this all mean? Well, there are football ramifications, and there are obviously far more personal ramifications for Hoyer and, to some extent, the league. Let's start with Hoyer:
1. During the game on Sunday, Hoyer was knocked around quite a bit, having been sacked five times and hit several others. Early in the fourth quarter, it was reported on the broadcast that he was being examined by doctors after one particular play where he had clearly been knocked a little goofy. Still, he went back into the game, almost immediately had a very lackadaisical fumble where he barely chased the ball down, and then after coming back out for yet another series, reportedly suffered the concussion on another hit. The question is "Was he concussed even before that and sent back out?" The fumble he committed and his body language as it unfolded was eerily similar to former Texans and current Rams QB Case Keenum's after the league and the team botched his concussion diagnosis in a game against the Ravens a few weeks ago. It's fair to ask "Does the league even know what it's doing when it comes to diagnosing these concussions in-game?"
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3. This is now Hoyer's fifth concussion of his football career. Given that they're spread out over his career going all the way back to high school, that's not a startling number for a football player in his position. However, the second concussion in less than a month is definite cause for concern. If this were fifteen or twenty years ago, he'd just keep playing through them and hope for the best. Ask Steve Young or Troy Aikman. But we know far more now about the long range effects of concussions than we did even a decade ago. How Hoyer, who is married with two young children, evaluates this long-term will be interesting to see.
3. For the Texans, this means that T.J. Yates will likely start on Sunday in Indianapolis in what will be, by far, the most important game the Texans have played since their playoff loss to the Patriots in the 2012 postseason. The Texans are 0-13 in their history in Indianapolis, and ironically had their best chance to win back in 2011 with Yates starting as a rookie against a Colts team that would end up going 2-14. At this point, it's unknown who will start for the Colts, as both Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck are suffering from injuries, which means we could have a game pitting Yates and Charlie Whitehurst against each other for control of the AFC South, an entirely appropriate metaphor for this season's AFC South.
"I think we have a good guy there to step in because [Yates is] a pro and he's got really good poise," O'Brien said. "He's a bright guy. I told the team that today. I told the offense that, too."
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