The NFL has given teams a new strategy for talking about players in concussion protocol: just not talking about them.
According to NBC Sports’s Pro Football Talk, executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent sent a memo to all general managers and coaches asking them to “refrain from making public comments regarding the condition of a concussed player or speculating as to when he may return to practice and play once in the concussion protocol.”
The memo also gives teams a boilerplate response for questions about specific players, which is to say that “that the player is in the concussion protocol under the supervision of the medical team, and the club will monitor his status.”
It is important to note, of course, that the league’s protocol here operates with little accountability under subjective interpretations of “concussion symptoms” in such a way that it’s possible for clearing protocol to mean what a team wants it to mean.
The memo comes two weeks after Kansas City Chiefs team officials repeatedly contradicted one another on information about the concussion status of quarterback Alex Smith—with head coach Andy Reid, head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and a team spokesperson all offering different statements on whether Smith had cleared concussion tests and when. Smith did not play last week but is expected to start tomorrow against the Carolina Panthers.