49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 6, 2012
Goodell discusses -- sort of -- Alex Smith's concussion ramifications

Thanks to The Bee's Matt Kawahara for forwarding these comments from Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the course of events that led to Alex Smith losing his starting job. Goodell attended the Raiders-Broncos game in Oakland where he spoke to reporters.

Q: Alex Smith gets a concussion, reports his symptoms, sits out, and then he loses his job. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the league and the public about injuries and taking them seriously?
RG: That it's about safety first. That you really do -- the competitiveness is not going to be the No. 1 driver. It's going to be safety. And that when someone gets injured, those are medical decisions and they have to be made by the medical professionals. The football decisions are made later when the player is healthy. And that's what the 49ers have done.
Q: But are you concerned that a player might learn from that situation to hide an injury instead of coming forward?
RG: Well that's always been a challenge for us, making sure that players self-report. But it's not that simple. You've got to have the teammate next to him, if he's not right. We have ATC spotters that are watching from upstairs that can spot when somebody's had an impact that may lead to a concussion so they can be evaluated. You want to make sure they're all evaluated properly and that the right decisions are made from a medical standpoint.

Goodell didn't seem to grasp the nuances of Smith's situation and how it will be interpreted by other players, or perhaps he was choosing not to fully address such a touchy subject. Smith appeared to recover quickly after his Nov. 11 concussion, so much so that the 49ers went into the week of the Bears game thinking he would start. It wasn't until that Sunday - a week after the concussion occurred - that Smith reported his symptoms had returned. He sat out the Bears game on Monday, Colin Kaepernick flourished and, well, Smith hasn't gotten his job back.

The question is whether some players will look at that example and choose not to be honest about the symptoms they are experiencing. I wrote about this honesty dilemma last month.

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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