The play should never have happened at all. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil jumped way offsides late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but the referee never blew his whistle to flag him for encroachment. Dumervil’s teammate, the massive defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, then burst through the line and grabbed St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum. After a feeble pass attempt, Keenum’s head slammed against the FieldTurf.
Keenum, woozy and unable to stand on his own initially, stayed in the game, which St. Louis lost, 16-13. Anyone watching the CBS broadcast of the game could see that Keenum had likely suffered a concussion, and needed medical attention. But it seems that not even his head coach, Jeff Fisher, noticed. The NFL issued a statement on the matter on Monday that doubled as a description for what went wrong: “Promptly after the conclusion of yesterday’s game, we began a review to determine the facts of the injury to St. Louis quarterback Case Keenum and why he was not removed from the game for the necessary evaluation by a team physician or the unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant as required by our concussion protocols.”
This isn’t Keenum’s fault; he’s a marginal quarterback doing his utmost to hang on to a new starting position on his team. It’s the job of his coach, his teammates, the spotters, the referees, and the league itself to make sure that Keenum was cared for. But in the last decade, since attention to head injuries in football and the diseases they cause have increased, I can’t think of a more explicit case of a player being failed by the NFL. Given that America is about to reminded of the league’s early negligence regarding concussions in a new book and film, perhaps the timing is just right for fans to get a reminder of how much more needs to be done to address this issue.