Bagshot, England — For the second time in 2014, the Lions sent a player back onto the field with a brain injury.
In Sunday's win over the New Orleans Saints, right tackle LaAdrian Waddle suffered a concussion on the winning extra point with 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, but he returned for the final kneeldown.
On Thursday morning, Lions coach Jim Caldwell defended the decision by the medical staff to allow Waddle's return, saying he wasn't symptomatic and "it was only one snap." By Thursday afternoon, the team released a statement to clarify Caldwell's response, saying Waddle didn't report the injury until after the game.
"They knew exactly what had happened to him in terms of he banged his head on the ground," Caldwell said of the medical staff. "After he gets up, it wasn't to the point where they thought he was concussed at that time. And obviously he went back on the field the final snap of the game. We knew it was only one snap."
The statement said the trainers did not identify the injury until after the game.
"The Lions medical staff informed coach Caldwell after the game that Waddle had not reported any injury to them until after the game, which led to further examination," the statement read. "The team's medical staff also informed coach Caldwell that the NFL medical observer, who observes the game from the press box, did contact the team's medical staff during the final play to suggest an examination of Waddle. The exam was done in the locker room after the game, and the concussion protocol was immediately initiated."
Between the extra point try and the kneeldown, there was a kickoff and eight offensive plays by the Saints.
Another offensive tackle could've filled in for that one snap, in which quarterback Matthew Stafford simply had to take a knee to finish the game. General manager Martin Mayhew said the team followed the evaluation protocol "to the letter" before allowing Waddle to take the field again, but like Caldwell's, Mayhew's response came before the statement that blames the league medical observer.
In Week 4, running back Joique Bell suffered a concussion late in the third quarter but returned for the first play of the fourth quarter. He missed the next game.
"It wasn't one of those situations where they felt he had to go in the locker room right away, but they did know he banged it," Caldwell said of Waddle.
Waddle missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, but Caldwell said he's progressing well through the NFL's concussion protocol. Caldwell also said he thinks the team's medical staff did not fail to protect Waddle on Sunday.
"I think we do a great job in that regard," Caldwell said. "I think the communication has to be open and clear, and our guys do a great job of evaluating. They take a look at it, and I think without question it's done the proper way."
Caldwell explained that concussion symptoms often don't arise until hours or even a day after the blow to the head. Still, with all of the emphasis from the NFL on protecting players from brain injuries, similar decisions will be scrutinized, but Caldwell defended the decision to allow Waddle to return.
Waddle made the eight-hour flight to London with his teammates Monday. If he can't play Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Garrett Reynolds or Cornelius Lucas will fill in at right tackle.
"We've got a game of helmets and there's collisions, and the extent of it sometimes you don't know until the game is over with, OK?" Caldwell said. "And so that's how it happened. Sometimes you don't know until the next day in some situations.
"That one in particular, it was known, but they didn't know he had a concussion obviously at that time. After the game, it was looked at and determined."