PHILADELPHIA — Stewart Bradley banged his head on a teammate's leg, struggled to get up, took a couple steps and fell helmet-first onto the ground.
Clearly, something was wrong.
Bradley sustained a concussion when he collided with Ernie Sims during Philadelphia's 27-20 loss to Green Bay on Sunday. Yet somehow, the Eagles' middle linebacker returned for a few plays before he was pulled for the rest of the game.
Minutes before Bradley went down, Kevin Kolb's head was slammed down so hard on a tackle from behind that a chunk of grass got stuck in his helmet. He got up slowly and walked off the field.
The team initially said Kolb had a jaw injury, and the quarterback returned to throw three passes before sitting out the rest of the game with a concussion.
Head injuries were an important issue for the NFL in the offseason. Last year, the league implemented stricter return-to-play guidelines for players who show concussion symptoms, and each team must consult with an independent neurologist whenever there is a head injury.
So, how could Bradley and Kolb be allowed to re-enter the game with concussions?
"We stuck to the criteria there, and then followed up on it," coach Andy Reid said Monday. "We didn't just stick (them) out there without having followed the protocol. We also made sure that we stayed on top of it when they came back off the field and made the decision when symptoms were there. I have full trust in the trainers and the doctors and the procedure they admit through."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 teams last Dec. 2 saying a player who gets a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms.
Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness, persistent headaches and confusion as evidenced by disorientation to person, time or place.
Anyone watching Bradley stagger to his feet and then crash to the ground probably would've considered him disoriented.
"When he came off that initial time, he was fine, he went through all the steps and he flew through those things fine, and obviously was eager to get back out there," Reid said.
Reid said he didn't see the play live. When it happened, Kolb already was receiving attention, so it's unknown which members of the medical staff witnessed Bradley's disturbing tumble.
Reid would not allow head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder to speak to reporters on Monday, saying "I gave you everything that needed to be done."
He staunchly supported Burkholder and the medical staff for the way they addressed the injuries.
"They go to the extreme to make sure that they follow the medical protocol that's set for everything and it's no different for this situation."
The NFL Players Association is satisfied with the way the Eagles handled both situations.
"It appears to me that they followed appropriately procedures laid out by the commissioner and by the NFL Players Association," NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer said.
The NFL Brain, Head and Neck Medical Committee also looked into it.
"We are all comfortable with the fact the players received appropriate treatment in these cases, as per the guidelines set out by the commissioner and by the players association," said Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chair of the NFL Committee.
Last year, the Eagles let running back Brian Westbrook return three weeks after sustaining his first career concussion. He suffered another one in his first game back, and later said he wasn't completely healed when he came back.
Kolb and Bradley weren't available for comment Monday. Both players were sent home from the team's practice facility, and didn't watch film with their teammates.
"They didn't feel great," Reid said.
However, Reid didn't rule either player out for Sunday's game at Detroit.
"I can't tell you that," he said. "We have to go through and do exactly what the protocol calls for and that's the procedure that we're doing right now.
Kolb and Bradley will be evaluated on Wednesday and they'll see an independent specialist, as required by the league, on Friday.
Michael Vick, who nearly led the Eagles to a comeback win in a dynamic half of action, would get the start if Kolb doesn't play.
Reid again squashed any quarterback controversy.
"Kevin Kolb's the No. 1 quarterback," Reid said.
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