Alex Smith details how he circumvented concussion protocol while playing for Chiefs

The NFL's concussion protocol is in the spotlight - again - after Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's horrific injury in last week's game against the Bengals.
Former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was asked by Pablo Torres on Monday's ESPN Daily podcast how the protocol works, and Smith delved into his own experience with the Chiefs in 2016.
During an October 30 game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Smith hit his head twice on the turf. Twice he left the game and was evaluated for a concussion. And once he was allowed to return to the game.
ADVERTISEMENT
The Chiefs later said that Smith did not have a concussion. But on the podcast, Smith said he eventually lost consciousness and definitely had a concussion.
first quarter
Smith left that game first against the Colts after being hit while sliding. Smith tried to jump up but was wobbly, similar to what happened in Tagovailoa last week, he said.
After being removed from the game, Smith was asked basic questions on the sidelines. He said those were simple questions like, do you know where you are? Or what did you eat for breakfast?
"You can quickly find out if someone is slow to react, doesn't know, that's your first ticket to get into the log and once you're in you obviously don't get back in the game," Smith said.
ADVERTISEMENT
But in that 2016 game, Smith passed the test and was taken to the dressing room with a coach and a neurologist for the second round of testing.
"At the very beginning (the neurologist) is going to ask you a series of questions, he's going to give you some words, a series of words that he's going to ask you, and then he's going to distract you," Smith said. “He'll (ask questions) … geography questions, they can be simple math questions, he'll ask you a lot of stuff.
“He gives you this kind of sobriety test. So he also asks you to show some kind of basic mobility, balance on one leg. At the end of those 10 to 15 minutes, he'll come back to those words he gave you at the very beginning of the test. And if you do well on this whole thing, you're not on the record if he doesn't think you have a concussion at this point. You're not in the log, you deleted it."
Smith was hyper-focused on passing the test because he lost his starting job with the 49ers in 2012 when he left a game with a concussion. Colin Kaepernick took over and Smith never started again for San Francisco.
ADVERTISEMENT
While in the Chiefs locker room, Smith withheld information about how he was feeling because he believed his concussion symptoms were mild and he wanted to play again.
The doctor determined that Smith had passed that test, and he returned to the Chiefs sidelines. Smith urged coach Andy Reid to allow him to return to the game.
“Here's a coach I have a lot of respect for. Has been coaching football as long as anyone, right? He was there, but... the experts acquitted me. I passed," Smith said. "I passed her metric of a concussion that I survived and also that Tua wasn't supposed to have (pass). And I went back into the game.”
Third quarter
Smith returned in the second quarter of that game against the Colts. But just after halftime, Smith was hit again while sliding and his head slammed onto the turf.
ADVERTISEMENT
"I had talked Andy Reid into playing some QB-driven running games, reading options and I loved them and I always told him I would protect myself," Smith recalled. "And so I slipped feet first at first. I slid quite late (with a) defender coming over the top. As a quarterback, when you slip feet first, you're just so vulnerable. And sure enough, he kind of hit me in the head and same as Tua, I bounced off the lawn. And that was the first incident.
"Well, (on) the second incident, like here we go again. ... I slide again, I feel like I slide even earlier. Sure enough security comes my head over the top clips. And it's like, the same. I hit my head on the floor. And yes, it happened again.”
This time Smith didn't try to get up immediately. That's because he lost consciousness.
"I'm on the field for a short time, a very short time, and I come to myself with a bunch of coaches and people around me," Smith said. “And for me at this point, a rush of emotions. To be honest you're mad at yourself that it happened, that I let it happen."
ADVERTISEMENT
There were no tests on the sidelines this time. Smith went straight back to the dressing room.
"It's the same protocol though, right?" said Smith. “So you start with those first, same basic, general, simple questions, knock them out, and you're good to go. And we do this second test, which is the same, this time, it's a whole new set of words that you have to memorize, and then you do this whole sobriety test, again, agility, balance, all answering these kinds of problem-solving questions , any kind of common sense people would know.
"They try to rate my reaction time, things like that, and end up coming back to the same questions. Ten minutes later I crushed it. I crush the second better than the first. I refuse this one. And Pablo, wouldn't you know? I'm off the record."
Smith did not return to the game this time as Nick Foles finished the 30-14 win.
After the game there was confusion. Reid said Smith had a concussion, but Chiefs executive athletic coach Rick Burkholder said the next day that wasn't the case.
aftermath
Despite passing tests during the game, Smith was put on concussion record in Kansas City, and Foles played the following week's game against Jacksonville.
Though Smith didn't like the move at the time, he's grateful to the Chiefs because he clearly had a concussion in Indianapolis.
"I even remember our head coach laughing about it like, 'The concussion you didn't have.' Like everyone knew, like it happened," Smith said. "Obviously, access to the log was and is imperfect, but I kind of slipped through that side door. ...
"I remember sitting down with Andy later that week and had no symptoms. I was doing really well and I think Andy was very frustrated with himself for putting me in the game the week before and obviously made the wise decision given that I still had all the stuff ( tests) that he wouldn't let me play.
"And I'm grateful to him for that, along with our coach and our doctors who have all made great decisions. Again for me at a point where I was still symptom free, passing tests and moving on and feeling, 'Hey, let's go.' And so I sat there for a week and luckily...I never had for the rest of my career another incident. So if you look at my medical records, I'm sure that technically I probably just had an official concussion in the eyes of the NFL.
Alex Smith
|
QB
|
#11

Last News

NATO to reassure Russia's nervous neighbors

NATO to reassure Russia's nervous neighbors

Sen. Raphael Warnock Is Finally Going for the Jugular in Georgia Senate Battle

Sen. Raphael Warnock Is Finally Going for the Jugular in Georgia Senate Battle

Japan court rules same-sex marriage ban constitutional

5 cars Joe Biden's Secret Service rented in Nantucket burst into flames a day after they were returned: report