Edmonton Eskimos starting quarterback Mike Reilly has turned many heads across the Canadian Football League this season.
Reilly has shown he has all the tools to be a solid starter in years to come. He’s shown the ability to make the big plays happen, in fact he leads the CFL in big plays with 31 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Reilly is second in the league in touchdown passes with 21, and third in passing yards with 3,165.
There’s no official stat line for how many hits you take during a game, but I’m betting Mike Reilly would leading the league in that category. He’s been hit mostly in the pocket as the offensive line has troubles this season with consistency.
Reilly has also taken some open-field hits. Last Saturday against the Toronto Argonauts, Reilly took a hit to the back of his head in the first quarter which would eventually be diagnosed as a concussion.
What made people very antsy was the fact Reilly stayed in the football game and appeared woozy. After throwing a touchdown pass to Shamawd Chambers on the very next play, Reilly walked off to the sideline and was assessed by the Eskimos medical staff.
Initially, Reilly seemed fine and passed of the baseline concussion tests. It was a few minutes later Reilly says he started to feel symptoms and then the medical staff shut Reilly down for the rest of the game.
Reilly says he has no doubt the Eskimos medical staff handled him correctly on the field and on the sidelines.
“I have 100 per cent faith in the staff here,” Reilly said. “I feel like everything that they did was everything that they could do given the circumstances, given my responses, and the way I was reacting and feeling on the field.”
Three years ago, the CFL released their concussion protocols. It was the first time the league had set and firm guidelines about recognition, prevention, and treatment of concussions. The CFL partnered up with well know Canadian neurosurgeon and scientist Dr. Charles Tator who is a part of the Think First study on concussions. The CFL concussion protocol for a player who is suspected of having a concussion is to be immediately removed from the field of play.
CFL President and CEO Michael Copeland says the league did investigate the Reilly incident. The findings by the league according to Copeland are the Eskimos medical staff followed the correct protocols.
“The trainer asked Reilly whether he had any pain in his head and in his neck,” Copeland explained. “They asked him if he had any headaches, or anything of that nature. He responded that he did not. They (medical staff) observed him, which they normally do. And then they made an assessment based on all the factors available to them whether they suspect he had a concussion which they didn’t at that time.”
Some fans and media have already accused the Eskimos and even the CFL of being negligent about letting a player continue to play with a concussion.
The facts are on the table. The medical staff that is highly trained made the call to let Reilly continue to play. Could Reilly have stretched the truth about how he was feeling? Absolutely!
He wouldn’t be the first athlete not to be straight up about how he was feeling after taking a knock to the head. There’s no evidence that Reilly wasn’t truthful on the field. The bottom line regardless is the medical staff did their due diligence and found no evidence of a concussion, they have no choice but to let Reilly play. In this case once you eliminated all the variables, it clear the affects of the hit didn’t show up until Reilly was on the bench.
Are we not as well forgetting the bigger issue here? The Argonauts Cleyon Laing who made a reckless; and careless play on Mike Reilly launching his helmet like a missile into the back of the head of Mike Reilly. Those are the types of hits that need to be taken out in the game of football. You can’t even call that play a football play. That’s where the concern should lie, not with trained medical people who were just doing their jobs to the best of their ability.
Players nowadays simply have to change their mindset about the way they tackle. The head has to be off-limits as much as humanly possible.
Punishment and consequences are important but even more important is education.
We are in a new era of player safety and it’s the best for the sports.
Dave Campbell has been on the Eskimos beat since 2004. He’s entering his seventh season as the Eskimo colour analyst for 630 CHED broadcasts. He also hosts The Points After Show, an openline post-game show. Follow Dave on Twitter @Dave_CHED.