Key defensive tackle D.J Jones passed through the league's concussion protocol, but the 27-year-old remains listed as questionable for Sunday’s bout in Sin City.
The Tua scrutiny could lead to the Broncos opting to be extra cautious with Jones and sit him down this weekend. Hackett has already gone on record earlier this week to make it crystal clear that only the medical experts would make the decision on Jones availability.
“Obviously, with those head things, we want to make sure safety is the most important thing, so we just want to make sure that he’s good throughout that process,” Hackett said on Thursday. “As he evaluates through it, we’ll find out if he can play.”
On Friday, Hackett doubled down on his belief that his players' safety and well-being are always of paramount importance, which makes all the sense in the world at this particular juncture.
“I don’t know if there is a perfect way for anything like that. It’s such a sensitive topic,” Hackett said. “In the end, it’s about player safety, player safety, player safety. We are always thinking about that. It doesn’t take something like that to happen to all of a sudden sit there and re-digest it and say we should do something different."
Part of Hackett's steep NFL learning curve is evident when addressing the media on the broader issues of the game in general. It's far less of a concern when performing as an assistant coach, but what the head coach says can really set the organizational tone.
"We’re always trying to take care of the players, and make sure the players are healthy," Hackett said. "They are the reason why this game is so great. I think we’ll follow it, and from the standpoint of our medical team, I have full confidence in them doing all the right stuff.”
Allowing the medical professionals to do their job is all about constantly reminding oneself that without the players, there is no game. Hackett certainly sounds like a man who has that reality firmly embedded into his mind at all times.
Still, Hackett admitted on Friday that pulling back the reinson a player who genuinely feels he is ready to go is a difficult but essential balancing act.
“That’s where the doctors come in. They are the experts for all of us—me, the players. We want everybody out there, they want to be out there. They are dying to play. They love this game with all their heart—we all do,” Hackett said. “In the end, it’s about the medical expertise that we get. When they say it’s okay to go, then they get to go. We want to be sure that we lean on them and make sure they know because they’re non-biased. They are about the medical and they’re about how the player is. So, I think we have a good process here and we’re going to continue that.”
Jones' potential absence would undoubtedly hurt the Broncos' high-flying defense on Sunday. Thankfully, in fellow D-lineman Mike Purcell, the Broncos have a player who can help carry the extra load as the Broncos look to remain atop the AFC West.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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