Ann Arbor – Michigan sophomore quarterback Shane Morris was not diagnosed with a concussion, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said at his weekly news conference on Monday.
Hoke and the program have come under fire since Saturday night's loss to Minnesota in which Morris, who was making his first career regular-season start, suffered a high left ankle sprain and, while hobbled, stayed in the game and took a hard helmet-to-chin hit.
After that fourth-quarter hit, Morris wobbled after getting up and grabbed right tackle Ben Braden for stability. Morris remained in the game after apparently waving off assistance and telling offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier that he was OK to play. He was removed after the next play.
There has been considerable speculation Morris suffered a concussion after the hit that drew a roughing-the-passer penalty. Various national news outlets, ABC News, Good Morning America and the Today Show, have featured segments on this situation.
Hoke was asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion.
"Everything I know of, no," Hoke said.
When asked if Morris was put through the sideline protocol to check for concussion, Hoke deferred.
"You'll have a statement from our medical department," he said.
Hoke said he would not knowingly play a player with a head injury.
"For those of you who know or don't know, I would never put a kid in that situation, never have, and never will," Hoke said. "You get into this to coach kids, and that's what this game is all about and helping those guys in a lot of different ways.
"We would never, ever put a guy on the field when there's a possibility of head trauma. We won't do that."
Michigan has had neurologist Jeff Kutcher, director of Michigan Neurosport Program and associate professor in the U-M Department of Neurology, on the sideline for home and road games since 2012. Kutcher is one of the nation's foremost authorities on concussion research.
The protocol involves the athletic trainer attending to the player and then requesting the neurologist to examine the athlete. The neurologist can then make an assessment on the sideline or in the locker room. The player's helmet is taken away after an assessment.
Michigan practiced Sunday night and Hoke indicated Morris would have practiced if not for the high ankle sprain.
Hoke said Theiren Cockran should have been penalized for targeting.
The video replay showed Cockran leading helmet first and hitting Morris under the chin. Morris was on his stomach before getting up and then, looking wobbly, grabbing onto Braden.
"In this case, there's only so much to be gleaned from a video," said Dr. Anthony Alessi, associate clinical professor of Neurology at the University of Connecticut, who has been a ring-side physician for 18 years and worked with the New York Yankees organization since 1995.
"The University of Michigan does it better than any university, the fact they have a neurologist on the field for every game. This is not a novice physician on the sideline. This is a neurologist who can make a decision for the coach. I can't emphasize this enough -- it takes someone with experience seeing these types of injuries to make a decision for that athlete."
Hoke said he always defers to the athletic trainers and medical staff when it comes to his players and their medical opinions.
"If our doctors say one thing and this guy is studied in the field and knows that, it would be like him telling me run a zone blitz on third down," he said. "What does he know about a zone blitz on third down?"
Hoke and Nussmeier said they did not see the hit on Morris because they were watching the play as it progressed. Nussmeier saw an incompletion and believed the punt team was heading onto the field until coaches from the press box informed him of the penalty.
"I didn't see the hit," Nussmeier said. "Everything happens fast down there. I saw the ball, I'm following the ball, trying to see the route, see what happens, and all of a sudden I see incompletion. (My) first thought is, 'We're off (the field).' And then the guys upstairs said, 'Hey, we've got a roughing penalty. We're up.'
"It's first-and-10 from a play-caller's standpoint, then I look up and see Shane limping. (I said), 'Are you OK? Are you OK?' He waved me off, 'I'm fine.' I didn't know what had happened, because we couldn't really see from our vision on the field. Shane is a tough, tough guy."
Hoke said he saw the replay of Morris stumbling.
"His ankle gave out, that's what (Morris) told me," Hoke said. "Did I see that? Yeah, I saw Ben Braden there. But I didn't see the hit, either, I was traveling the ball down the field."
Morris was in the game even on bad ankle, Hoke said, because it is not unusual for players to play through pain and injuries.
"He felt like he could still play," Hoke said. "When the injury happened the first time (in the third quarter) he came back and could play on it. As a competitor, he feels he could play on it.
After Morris left the game one play after the hit, Devin Gardner, who had been the starting quarterback since last season, came in. But then Gardner had to leave the playing field after his helmet came off. Backup Russell Bellomy did not have his helmet and was not ready to get on the field.
Morris returned for one play.
Hoke explained that he was trying to get the referee's attention and got involved in a debate with officials about getting Gardner back on the field with a timeout.
"By that time I know Shane is on the field taking one more snap, handing the ball off, Devin gets his helmet back on," Hoke said. "That's how that sequence went."
Michigan is 2-3 overall, 0-1 Big Ten and has three losses before the end of September for the first time in program history. The Wolverines play at Rutgers in a night game Saturday.
Hoke has never been one to shy away from criticism, but he defended himself on Monday.
"There should be some criticism when we talk about the performance, and that's me and coaching, I understand that," he said "But when your integrity and character is attacked I think that's really unwarranted."