The Pittsburgh Steelers have already begun practice preparations for their next playoff game on Sunday, but they did so without a key name that has been on the injury report for too long now, that being tight end Ladarius Green. The free agent signing remains in the concussion protocol for the fourth straight week after experiencing a setback a week ago.
The tight end spent the first half of his first season with the Steelers on the PUP List before finally being worked into the offense. He was making some important contributions over the six games in which he did play before he suffered a concussion making his final catch to date, a 20-plus yarder that converted on third down and helped close out a come-from-behind victory in Week 15.
After making that reception, Green had a head-on collision with the safety, and also suffered an impact to his head upon going to the ground. He was helped off the field fairly gingerly, and has yet to be cleared to return to play 24 days removed from the occurrence.
Things seemed to be looking up not so long ago, however. Green returned to practice as a limited participant heading into the final game of the regular season—a game in which he was never going to play anyway, since it held no playoff implications, and many starters and all injured players were rested.
Last week, Green participated fully in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, showing obviously very good signs about his progress, but he did not practice on Friday and then did not play in the game. He clearly had a setback, and the fact that he still did not practice several days later is reason to be concerned about his ability to return in the near future.
The final step of the return to play portion of the concussion protocol requires that a player undergo full participation in practice and show no further symptoms while returning to his baseline cognitive readings. Clearly, Green was unable to participate in practice asymptomatically, whether it was through physical manifestations or poor impact testing results.
As pretty much everybody reading this article is well aware, Green is a player who has already had a notable history with concussions. He experienced multiple concussions during his playing career with the Chargers, even just during the 2015 season.
Whenever somebody experiences a number of concussions, they become more and more susceptible not only to suffering more concussions, but also more severe concussions. Ideally, he may even return to practice as early as today, and our fears can begin to be allayed as he returns to the lineup.
But based on what we are currently seeing, I can’t help but feel a certain level of concern, not only about his ability to return to the lineup during this playoff period, but also for his long-term cognitive health. Hopefully this is an overreaction.