One down, two to go.
The Vikings entered their preparation week for the Green Bay Packers Wednesday with three question marks – Percy Harvin's ankle injuries and concussions to Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith. You can now drop that number down to two.
Harvin was limited with a ankle injury and Rudolph cleared his concussion test but was held out of Wednesday's practice with a shoulder strain. However, Smith was back at practice Wednesday after successfully passing the battery of tests that are now part of the NFL's post-concussion protocol. He said he wasn't overly concerned about passing the tests, which have become a growing problem around the NFL for players trying to get back on the field without missing any time. With the high-tech diagnostics that are involved, even if a player feels like he's 100 percent, unless he can demonstrate that there isn't any lingering damage from the concussion, doctors err on the side of caution.
"They did a computer test and check your reaction and your memory," Smith said. "Then they do some physical exercises and make sure you can do it. I took it yesterday. As far as I know, I'm all good."
Smith downplayed the significance of the injury, saying that he believed he could have returned to the game, but, due to the increased recognition of the long-term effects concussions can have on players in later life, he understood why he was held out and the medical staff took his helmet away.
"I felt pretty normal after the game," Smith said. "Just to make sure that I'm alright, they had to take the necessary precautions."
Initially, it didn't look that way. Smith was woozy after making a sideline hit and laid on the turf for several seconds. It happened on the Chicago sideline and the Bears medical staff came out initially to provide assistance. As Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman and his staff ran across the field, Smith leaped to his feet, only to have teammate Brian Robison grab him and prevent him from moving. Suddenly a crowd converged on him and Smith felt more a sense of embarrassment than one of having a concussion.
"It was funny," Smith said. "I guess my balance was a little off. My mind was all there, so I was like, ‘Oh, this looks horrible.' I was just a little off at first. Once they got me to slow down, I was fine."
Smith's calling card as an NFL rookie has been that he will lay the lumber to anyone who gets in his path, but, as he went off the field, he wasn't trying to give off a tough-guy persona. He believed his injury wasn't that serious and that the cautious nature of dealing with concussions played more into keeping him off the field than the severity of his concussion symptoms.
"Once I got into the locker room, I felt pretty normal," Smith said. "Even the tests we did there, I passed. But they didn't want to run the risk of putting me back on the field."
Smith verified that he has been diagnosed with one previous concussion, which happened back in 2008 when he was a freshman at Notre Dame, but added that concussion wasn't severe either and that he played the following week without incident.
The only difference in this injury compared to other bumps, bruises and dings that he has endured in his football career is that the NFL has a new awareness of the implications of concussions and what make them unique. A player can convince a coaching staff and medical trainers that he's good to go with a rib injury or an ankle sprain, but the brain wave tests don't lie and, given the NFL's new hard-line stance on not putting concussed players back into harm's way until they're cleared medically by an independent neurologist, getting back on the field was a little more complicated than it would be with a different injury.
"It's a little different, especially now with what's going on (in the NFL)," Smith said. "They want to make sure guys aren't getting head injuries or continuous head injuries. It's different, but it's still kind of the same thing. I did pretty good on the stress test, so I'm feeling good about it."
Smith fully expects to be on the field Sunday to play what will be the first of many games at Lambeau Field. He isn't concerned about making the first hit to assure himself that he's fine. It's what he signed up for when he started playing football as a kid. Injuries happen. Whether it's an ankle, a knee, a shoulder or a concussion.
"Football is football," Smith said. "You're going to get hit in the head. Every now and then, you might get a concussion. That's just how it goes."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Smith downplays concussion, already cleared
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