Mason Rudolph is feeling 'great' only three weeks after being knocked unconscious during the Steelers' Week 5 game against the Baltimore Ravens. According to the quarterback, it didn't take much time to recoup from a chilling Earl Thomas hit that sent him to the hospital.
"The next morning I felt fine," Rudolph said. "I had a minor headache that night, but the next morning I started to really come back. I slept really great, I didn't have any symptoms like sensitivity to light. I only had one concussion prior to high school."
The Steelers utilized Devlin Hodges at quarterback while Rudolph went through concussion protocol. He was cleared last Wednesday, missing the team's Week 6 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. Rudolph believed he was feeling fine, but wanted to assure he could fully recover before playing again.
"Checked all the boxes with the protocol situation and as frustrating as it was to have to sit out when I felt pretty close to normal - pretty fine, pretty clear in the head - it was the best thing for my long-term health," Rudolph said. "We have a lot of specialists here, so I complied with their thoughts."
Rudolph wanted to play in Week 6, but wasn't able to before being cleared by the team's XX consultant. As eager as he was to play in LA, and as fustrating as it was to sit out, the Steelers had to keep Rudolph's health in mind when making the decision.
"I feel like that because I'm a competitor and I like to feel like I know my body, but the thought process from the specialist was, 'take a lesser hit, you could be out for longer or you can really damage [yourself]'," Rudolph said. "I was just more vulnerable then. It was the opinion of the specialist and I didn't really have a choice. Obviously I wanted to, but I think I'll look back at this ten years down the road and I'll be glad I did sit out for a week, but I was not happy in the moment."
The quarterback tried to explain what exactly happened during the hit, but made it clear he's no doctor. According to Rudolph, the hit from Thomas triggered something that made him go black.
"The specialist said it shut off my brain stem - some high ranking term that's not in my pay rate - it shut my off real quick," Rudolph said. "It was a sweet spot and it shut me black. I've probably been hit like that a bunch and it never happened."
Rudolph doesn't recall the play that sent him to the ground. As he became conscious, he said it took some time before he was able to begin recalling what happened.
"I didn't remember the play at all," Rudolph said. "But everything before the play and after the play was weird, so I had to go back and ask the coach 'what was the play call?' because for some reason just that play was kind of blank and everything before and after was clear as day."
Despite still being somewhat out of it, Rudolph walked himself off the field. The NFL took some heat for the medical cart not working and the quarterback having to be assisted to the locker room, but Rudolph said he wanted to walk. Although, he didn't waive the cart off.
"I didn't waive them off," Rudolph explained. "When I was on the ground they made me move my arms and legs and I didn't have any spinal cord injury. There were plenty of memes about the cart not working, but I wouldn't have needed to be in the cart because I passed the tests on the ground."
Rudolph confirmed that Earl Thomas did reach out to him following the game. Neither believed the hit was intentional, and Rudolph said he appreciates him reaching out "and doing the classy thing."
Despite a traumatic moment in his career, Rudolph isn't going to let it effect his on-field performance. Even looking back, he's going to continue playing the way he always has, and doesn't plan to carry the worry of injury with him.
"You can't play looking over your shoulder," Rudolph said. "I'm not going to think twice about it. I'm going to come play the game that I've always played and play with the aggressiveness and trying to extend the play. I'm not going to think twice about worrying about getting hit in the right spot. That's just the luck of the draw, it's a freak accident and I'm just going to move on from it."