Speed of game poses bigger danger than field for concussions
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano saw nothing unusual during Sunday's game.
The field conditions at Lucas Oil Stadium were ideal and the two teams competed hard and were generally clean.
So one day after three players and what looked like a fourth left the field with apparent concussions, Pagano provided a simple answer as to what happened: It's an unfortunate part of the game.
''The speed of this game is what it is,'' Pagano said. ''These guys are flying around at a high rate of speed. These are big, strong, athletic guys flying around out there.''
Others believe there's more to it.
Following the game, Andy Reid downplayed the notion that the field had any role in the injuries, even though starting quarterback Alex Smith appeared to get injured a second time when his head slammed into the ground. Smith did not return and reporters were told he was out with a concussion, something Reid confirmed during his postgame news conference.
On Monday, Chiefs head trainer Rick Burkholder clarified what happened, explaining Smith passed the concussion test twice and never actually was diagnosed with a concussion. Still, Reid was asked again about whether the playing surface at Indianapolis (3-5) could have had anything to do with the head injuries.
Indy's retractable roof stadium is 8 years old and there have been few complaints about the FieldTurf Classic surface that was installed when the stadium opened. Last September, Sports Illustrated ranked the field No. 13 in the league and described the surface as popular because it was ''designed for softness and durability'' and reduced the ''splash'' of rubber pellets.
Stadium director Mike Fox said the NFL requires fields to be tested before each game and Lucas Oil generally grades out on the softer, or safer, end of the spectrum.
''Even though we are on our original turf, our numbers are well within the requirements of the league and are consistently among the best in the NFL,'' Fox said Monday. ''We test our turf every week before the game, as required by the NFL.''
This isn't the first time Kansas City has had a problem in Indy .
On their last trip to Lucas Oil Stadium, a playoff game in January 2014, the Chiefs lost two key players with head injuries - running back Jamaal Charles and cornerback Brandon Flowers - and blew a 28-point lead.
''We haven't had a lot of luck on that turf,'' Reid said. ''Jamaal had his situation, Flowers had the same situation. I'm not sure what the record shows of it.''
Still, Reid believes Sunday's injuries were more a result of bad luck and big hits, some that may have gone over the line in an already dangerous game.
Smith, for instance, left on the game's opening possession after appearing to take a helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker Edwin Jackson as he slid to a stop. No penalty was called, to the dismay of the Chiefs. Doctors, Reid said, then cleared Smith to return when they determined a cut ear affected his equilibrium.
Two quarters later, Smith departed again, this time when Clayton Geathers appeared to jam the head of the sliding quarterback into the turf. Again, no penalty.
But Smith was hardly alone.
Kansas City running back Spencer Ware did not play in the second half, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis left after apparently taking a shot in the end zone from a teammate, and Indianapolis right tackle Joe Reitz departed in the second half - all three with concussions.
''Pretty good game, guys were slammed around a little bit,'' Reid said afterward.
But rather than looking for explanations, both coaches seemed more concerned with getting back to work and making sure all these guys come back healthy.
''It's unfortunate,'' Pagano said. ''You don't ever want to see anybody get hurt on either team.''
NOTES: Pagano acknowledged left guard Jack Mewhort (triceps) had a setback during practice last Wednesday and that's why Mewhort was inactive against Kansas City. He wouldn't say whether Mewhort could return this week. ... Asked about the retirement of Andre Johnson, who played for the Colts last season and attended the University of Miami when Pagano was an assistant there, Pagano said he had an ''unbelievable career.''
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