LSU coach Brian Kelly is being criticized for letting quarterback Jayden Daniels return to the field shortly after a blow to his head. Photo Credit: CBS LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels was knocked out of Saturday night’s game against Alabama, but not before briefly returning to the field shortly after a blow to the head. Photo Credit: CBS

LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Jayden Daniels was having a tremendous game against Alabama on Saturday night before it was cut short. Though, it very nearly was not cut short.

Daniels was hit by Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner moments after releasing a pass early in the fourth quarter. It was a hard hit, which a delay of several minutes as Daniels was tended to on the field. Eventually, Daniels walked off of the field and was replaced by backup Garrett Nussmeier.

The hit was significant enough that the LSU trainers were checking to see if Daniels might have a broken jaw. And given that he was hit in the head, it seemed inevitable that Daniels would go to the medical tent for examination and at a minimum, would miss a few plays while being checked for a concussion.

But after one Nussmeier pass, Daniels came back onto the field. It ended up being all for naught. LSU committed a false start penalty on what would have been second-and-five. Then, before the Tigers snapped the ball on second-and-10, a time-out was called. And when the LSU offense returned to the field, Nussmeier was again in at quarterback and Daniels was in the medical tent.

It was quickly reported that Daniels had been ruled out for the remainder of the game, was going through concussion protocol and that his mother was in the medical tent with him.

The hit that knocked Daniels out of the game was immediately controversial, as viewers wondered how targeting wasn’t called. But with that, another controversy emerged.

Regardless of what one may feel about the hit that knocked Daniels from the game, his head was clearly hit and hit hard. So, how did LSU (and specifically, coach Brian Kelly) initially conclude that Daniels could return to the game after missing only one play?

Concussions have become a point of emphasis in football in recent seasons — and rightfully so. But even with the emphasis, players are often allowed to return to (or stay on) the field shortly after a significant blow to the head or neck. In Week 8 of the NFL season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy stayed in the game after having his head and neck slammed back while falling to the ground. That was particularly troubling, as Purdy had been in concussion protocol throughout the week.

But at least in that situation, there was not a long delay. The hit against him was penalized but he didn’t stay on the ground. So, beyond the time it took to call and walk off the penalty, everything was fairly standard.

Mind you, that’s not an excuse for the abysmal way in which Purdy’s situation was handled. But it does make the mistake of leaving him in for at least the remainder of that series (though he also played the following series) more understandable. None of that understanding applies to Kelly and LSU here, though.

This was a delay of several minutes, a delay that existed solely because Daniels was on the ground and injured. There was more than enough time to see that Daniels had sustained a blow to the head and to respond accordingly, by at least making him undergo significant tests before returning. But that didn’t happen. The bare minimum was not met.

Do the people who run these leagues and conferences really care about concussions? To say that it’s all just a show might be a reach. But given what we too often see, it’s not an unfair reach.

[Photo Credit: CBS]

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