Niles Paul has suffered a concussion before, but nothing compared to what the Redskins tight end experienced in Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys. Paul was attended to on the field for several minutes in the first quarter after running back Rob Kelley scored on a one-yard touchdown run. He walked off the field and straight into the locker room, where he was officially diagnosed with a concussion.
Paul didn’t return in that game, didn’t practice the following week and missed Sunday’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks as he sat at home to relax and “let my brain settle down.”
“I don’t remember anything,” Paul said. “I don’t remember walking off the field. I barely remember walking out the stadium. I’ve never been concussed like that, so it was a bit scary for me.”
Paul, who returned to practice on Wednesday as a limited participant, said he has re-watched his goal line collision with Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee that caused the concussion. Serving as the team’s fullback, Paul ran right behind guard Shawn Lauvao along the right hash, dropped his head and tried to deliver a blow. As Kelley crossed the goal line, Paul’s helmet popped off. He was unresponsive as tight end Jordan Reed approached him. The offense’s celebration ended abruptly as Washington’s training staff ran onto the field.
“Truthfully, it was scary to watch,” said Paul, who had also suffered a concussion in 2014. “I ain’t never been knocked out like that. I’ve had concussions and stuff before. I have been out, but to see how long I was out and to have J-Reed, Vernon [Davis] and my guys tell me, ‘You wasn’t responding at all.’ It was scary to think about because I don’t remember anything. Everything was just black.”
Paul said he remembers “coming to my senses” when head athletic trainer Larry Hess told Paul that he was going to call for a cart to get him off the field. Paul, who was carted off during a 2015 preseason game for an ankle injury that ended his season, rejected the idea of getting carted off the field for the second time in his career.
“I got too much pride to get carted off the field,” Paul said. “I’d have to break my ankle to get carted off the field. If I could’ve walked, I would’ve walked. I got too much pride to get carted off the field, so I wasn’t trying to — not again. Once in my career is enough for me.”
Right after the game, Paul sent out three tweets on Twitter explaining his mentality concerning his teammates and how he did his job despite being knocked out of the game.
Paul said he felt the need to express himself on social media because he felt people were criticizing him about his body position and leverage on the play that led to the concussion.
“I kind of got in my feelings because I felt like … that’s Sean Lee,” Paul said. “At the end of the day, I’m a wide receiver that they moved to fullback. Like I saw him. I saw the play. I saw it happening. I remember everything until I got hit, but I wasn’t going to turn it down. I ain’t no [expletive]. I don’t care who you is. I don’t care if it was [Eagles defensive tackle] Fletcher Cox coming in full speed. I’m gonna try and take the hit, especially if it gives my boy the score. That’s just the type of player I am, and I just want that to be known …”
Paul paused during his comments to dap up Kelley, who overheard Paul’s comments a few lockers over and extended his hand in support.
“I want it to be known that I ain’t no [expletive],” Paul continued. “[Lee] got the best of me. He knocked me out, but we scored. I did my job. People saying, ‘Oh, you should’ve moved your head out the way,’ and all this [expletive]. I’m like, nah. He came in with his head down, not saying he did anything dirty at all, but he came in ready to go. I could’ve either turned it down or I could’ve manned up and tried to buck up with him. And that’s what I did. It just happened that I’m the one that ended up asleep. I think I got him good too though. I think I got him good. What you think, Fat Rob? You think I got him too?”
A brief exchange broke out between Paul and Kelley, who shared how scared he was after the play because he wasn’t sure whether he injured Paul on the touchdown. Paul noted that Lee “probably wasn’t the same player after that hit.”
“He probably wasn’t. You wasn’t either,” Kelley responded as the two laughed.
“He wasn’t the same one for a couple of minutes,” Paul said. “I wasn’t the same for a week!”
While he’s able to laugh about the situation, chalking it up as a play that’s “all part of the game,” Paul has taken the concussion seriously. There is a desire to get back on the field, but Paul said he has been honest with the team about his symptoms. He doesn’t want to rush back on the field and suffer two concussions in three weeks.
“Two concussions in a couple weeks isn’t good at all, and I’m not trying to go down that road,” Paul said. “I’ve been feeling good, and I was able to go out there and do some stuff at practice [on Wednesday]. I’m just gonna keep building this week so hopefully I can play.”