Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says he lives in the present as he prepares for this week's game at Michigan. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said during his weekly news conference on Tuesday that quarterback Brian Lewerke did not go through concussion protocol during Saturday’s loss to Illinois, even after Lewerke was hit in the head and was slow to get up off the field.
“No, we didn't go through any protocol,” Dantonio said Tuesday as Michigan State prepared for Saturday’s game at Michigan. “We looked at him very quickly. I asked him and he said he's good, and he motioned that to our trainers, as well, so he just went on with it.”
However, on Tuesday evening, the university said Lewerke was examined on the sidelines during the game and underwent further tests on Sunday, a day after the game.
A statement was released by Dr. Anthony M. Avellino, the Assistant Provost for Student Health, Wellness & Safety, MSU's Health Care Chief Medical Officer and Interim Director of Athletic Medicine. In it, Avellino detailed the medical staff's procedures and how they were applied to Lewerke.
"The safety of student-athletes at Michigan State University is our No. 1 priority," the statement read. "Decisions on whether a player returns to competition after potentially suffering an injury are made by our medical staff, which does not report to our coaching staff or through the Athletics Department.
"Upon returning to the sideline late in the fourth quarter with under five minutes remaining in the game, Brian Lewerke was given a symptom assessment by our medical staff. After not showing signs of a concussion, he was cleared to play.
"As a precautionary measure, Brian was given further testing the following day, and was once again determined not to have a concussion."
Michigan State's Brian Lewerke, Antjuan Simmons, Cody White and Raequan Williams talk about this week's rivalry game with Michigan. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
During interviews after the game, Lewerke admitted he was feeling the effects of taking a shot to the back of the head.
“I’m fine,” Lewerke said after the game. “My head was ringing for a little bit, but it was nothing serious I don’t think. It was a tough hit and definitely rung my bell for a little bit. I think I was fine.”
Replays show why there is concern over whether Lewerke continued to play with a head injury and why he wasn’t at least checked out by doctors.
With 5:49 left during the 37-34 loss to Illinois, Lewerke ran to his left and was struck in the back of the head by the knee of Illinois linebacker Dele Harding while diving ahead for extra yardage. The ball immediately fell from Lewerke’s hands and he remained on his hands and knees for a moment while tight end Matt Seybert waved to the sidelines. Lewerke then stood up, shook his head back and forth and went back to the huddle.
On the next play, Lewerke threw an interception that was returned 76 yards for a touchdown. He returned to the game on the next series and never was replaced.
The Big Ten, as well as the other Power Five conferences, began using independent spotters at games starting with the 2015 season to identify players who show signs of possibly suffering a head or neck injury.
In November of 2016, after Michigan State’s Chris Frey appeared to suffer a head injury during the Michigan game but was allowed to return to the game, the Big Ten added to its policy, allowing games to be stopped for review “in order to provide the Replay Official with more time to ascertain the legality of the play. While all plays are reviewed in the Big Ten, this stoppage indicates to those watching the game that a formal review process is taking place.”
When the Big Ten made that announcement in 2016, it added that it would “continue to collaborate with the replay official in situations where the spotter has clear, reasonable visual evidence that a player displays obvious signs of possible head injury, disorientation or is clearly unstable. In situations where it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game and the signs have not been recognized by medical personnel or the on-field officials, the spotter has the authority to alert the replay official that the game should be stopped for a medical timeout.”
A message left Tuesday with the Big Ten wasn't returned.
At the time Michigan State and Frey both said proper protocol was followed and that he was checked out by the medical staff. On Saturday, play was not halted by an independent observer and Lewerke was not checked out by the medical staff that is on the sidelines for every game.
On Tuesday, Lewerke said he did not think he had any concussion symptoms.
“No,” he said. “My neck hurt a little bit.”
Dotson done; Scott should play Saturday
Dantonio confirmed on Tuesday that junior tight end Matt Dotson tore his Achilles during Saturday’s loss to Illinois and is out for the season. Dantonio also said junior cornerback Josiah Scott is expected to play after missing most of the second half on Saturday.
The Spartans have also had injury issues along the offensive line, but Dantonio indicated there could be some players getting back on the field.
“We'll probably get some guys back here soon,” Dantonio said. “Sooner than later.”
Fifth-year senior Tyler Higby did not play last week but is listed the co-starter at left tackle with junior AJ Arcuri, while Matt Carrick, who was hurt on Saturday, remains the starter at right guard.