NEW YORK (AP) Houston's Arian Foster and Jacksonville's Bernard Pierce both were on the field with potential head trauma in games last week.
The Texans running back returned to play on his own before the team's medical staff could evaluate him. The Jaguars running back showed no symptoms of a concussion until he attempted a block instead of trying to make a tackle on the punt unit.
The NFL said Wednesday both teams properly handled the concussion protocol once they had the opportunity to do so or suspected possible head trauma.
Houston's medical staff, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, was preparing to evaluate Foster when he left the bench and ran back onto the field for two plays.
''The player was subsequently taken off the field and escorted into the locker room, where medical staff conducted an evaluation in accordance with the concussion protocol,'' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. ''The medical staff cleared him to play and he returned to the field.''
As for Pierce, no health issues were reported until the following day. Pierce is still going through the Jaguars' concussion protocol
''As you've heard members of the head, neck and spine committee say, symptoms may not manifest themselves until later,'' McCarthy said.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien adamantly defended the team's medical staff on Wednesday.
''He was evaluated. That doesn't happen,'' O'Brien said of allowing a player back on the field before he has been properly examined. ''We checked him on the field, then took him off the field and I believe he was properly evaluated.
''I don't think we would ever put a guy back into the game - I know we wouldn't, not think, I know we would never put a guy back into the game that we doubted whether he was injured or not, whatever the injury was. So I think our guys did a good evaluation of him for that play that he was out and he was able to go back into the game.''
Halftime began soon after Foster had returned for those two plays.
''They checked him again, which would be normal protocol for anybody that was injured no matter what the injury was, and they determined that he was able to go out and play,'' O'Brien said, adding that Foster has been at practice all week.
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley reiterated Wednesday that Pierce never showed signs of a concussion during the game or after the play. Pierce started feeling effects in the locker room afterward and decided to get checked out.
Coaches and medical staff reviewed the tape with Pierce and they found two plays in which the head trauma might have happened: a glancing blow to the helmet on a special teams play, then later a hard tackle on a running play. But Pierce never stumbled or showed any other signs during the game.
''There's a couple of areas that he believes that it might have happened,'' Bradley said. ''We're just trying to figure it out.''
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