Three of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks suffered concussions in last week’s games, injuries that could have playoff implications as the season comes down to the final seven weeks.
One quarterback, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Michael Vick, definitely will not play Sunday. The other two have the luxury of having another day on which to recover before their teams, the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, play in an important NFC matchup Monday night. The Bears’ Jay Cutler is not expected to participate in practice today. The 49ers’ Alex Smith is further along in his recovery; he participated in non-contact drills Wednesday.
“I feel good. Better,” Smith said Wednesday (via the Associated Press). “I’m just going along with the process right now. Nothing’s been decided. It’s a whole long process that’s up to the doctors. I just kind of do what they tell me. [Being cleared for] contact obviously is the final straw.”
Players who suffer concussions must be cleared by an independent neurologist, so the matter of whether they’ll play is out of their hands, no matter how big the game.
Smith, who was injured when St. Louis Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar hit him in the back of the neck late in the first quarter Sunday, said he was unsure whether he would be cleared to play Monday. Six plays after the hit by Dunbar, Smith said he had blurred vision and was uncertain exactly when he was injured.
“It’s all speculation. It certainly didn’t help,” Smith said. “Talking to the neurologist, it probably contributed, for sure. Whether it loosens you up for the next one, I don’t know. I felt fine after that though. The sneak [six plays later] was definitely when I came up and my eyesight went wrong.”
With the concussion came headaches and nausea that Smith said were more severe than he experience a year ago when he suffered a concussion.
“It’s tough to describe. For me, the vision was the biggest thing, for sure,” Smith said. “I’ve taken a lot of hits over the years, and to try to play quarterback when you’re vision is not what it should be was difficult. For me, ultimately it didn’t get better. It wasn’t one of those things I could blink off and my focus was returning. I went on the sidelines and sat down and it seemed to get worse. It wasn’t getting better. It was not good for the team to go out there. I didn’t think I could help us much.”
As for Cutler’s recovery, Bears Coach Lovie Smith said that he “is getting better. We’re still evaluating him. He’s meeting with people, medical staff, our trainers and all of that, but he’s getting better. We do have a little bit more time and that’s always good.”