Carolina Panthers

NFL owners approve medical spotter to look for concussions

This is a 2014 photo of Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots NFL football team.
This is a 2014 photo of Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots NFL football team. AP

NFL owners on Tuesday approved a rule-change proposal that allows independent medical spotters to stop the game if they see a player showing signs of a head injury.

Competition committee Chairman Rich McKay said a play involving New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was part of the impetus for the proposed rule.

From his seat in the press box during the Super Bowl, a Detroit Free Press reporter heard a spotter tell the Patriots’ sideline to have Edelman checked for a concussion after he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Seattle safety Kam Chancellor during the fourth quarter.

Edelman never came out of the game while the Patriots were on offense, and he wouldn’t say after the game whether he had been screened for a concussion.

“The Edelman situation was a play we looked at, and it was part of the issue. There were a couple other plays that go back a couple years that we looked at,” McKay said during the first day of the owners meetings Monday.

Under the new rule, spotters would communicate with the side judge if they notice a player who displays “obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable,” McKay said.

The clock would stop while the player is evaluated on the field or the sideline. Teams could replace only the affected player, and their opponent would be able to substitute to match up, NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said.

Teams would not be charged a timeout.

According to the NFL, concussions were down 25 percent last season from the previous season. And league officials say they continue to study ways to make the game safer.

The proposed spotter rule is another step in that direction.

“We do not expect this to be a rule that gets used a lot,” said McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ president. “We expect it to be a fail-safe when people just don’t see this player and the stress that the player may have had. The spotter does and stops the game.”

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