In the final seconds of the first half of Texans-Broncos last night, Houston safety D.J. Swearinger hit Wes Welker with a shoulder pad/forearm shot to the helmet. Though he did so slowly, Welker did get up on his own and took himself out of the game. He immediately went to the locker room where it was determined he suffered another concussion, his third since November. In the meantime, Peyton Manning and Emmanuel Sanders hooked up for their second touchdown of the game on the very next play. Peyton chewed out Swearinger after the score, earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting.
Welker suffered two concussions last year and missed the last three games of the regular season. He did return for the Broncos postseason run, and has worn a larger helmet with extra padding to protect against further concussions ever since. He's going to have to go through the league's concussion protocol before he can play again. Absolute best case scenario: he is cleared for full contact practice Thursday, which is actually the preseason finale against the Cowboys he was never going to play in. The rest all depends.
According to the league's concussion protocol, even if a player is symptom-free the day following his concussion, he can return only to light exercise three days after the hit and only in non-contact portions of practice four days after the hit. The quickest a player, who is symptom-free the day after suffering the concussion, can return to a full contact practice is five days after the hit and the player has to show no symptoms compared to his base-line testing the day after the hit to even be on that timetable.
Also per the policy, once a team doctor has signed off on a player's return to the field, a doctor unaffiliated with the team and approved by both the NFL and NFL Players Association must also clear the player to return. One of the factors considered, in addition to the cognitive tests, is a player's concussion history.
There's the tiniest of backstories here because the Texans and Broncos practiced together this week and things got heated between the teams. J.J. Watt and a Broncos lineman got into a slap fight and, yep, D.J. Swearinger was in the middle of some trash talking, too. He intercepted Manning at one point and got loud enough that it bothered Denver. So things could have been a little more intense than your normal preseason game and, after the hit to Welker, Manning was clearly pissed off. He thought given Welker's history, Swearinger shouldn't have hit him up high. Immediately after he threw the touchdown, he ran the 40 yards into the end zone and got right in Swearinger's face to set him straight.
"Fifteen yards with five seconds left in the half doesn't hurt you that much, I think if you're going to get one that's a good time to get one," Manning said.
Then asked if he could repeat what he said to Swearinger and what Swearinger said back to him, Manning said:
"I can't. He said, 'Thanks, appreciate it, good luck to you as well.'"
I can't remember the last time, if ever, Peyton Manning was penalized for taunting, but if it happened, it almost surely was after the same kind of cost benefit analysis here. Peyton is loyal and concerned about his teammates wellbeing, for sure, but he is also a (polite) football robot.