PITTSBURGH — Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt hit back on the accusations that his concussion protocol was botched on Thursday against the Patriots. The NFL and NFLPA are conducting a joint investigation into the process of how T.J. Watt was put into concussion protocol and if there were errors made during Thursday night’s game against the Patriots that allowed him to return.
“I got hit, went into the tent and got cleared,” Watt said. “Then, I came in the next day and had stuff going on. So, you guys saw with the protocol, yesterday, got cleared from protocol. Today, I feel great.”
Watt did get checked for a concussion. After the first series, Watt was taken into the medical tent on the Pittsburgh sideline and examined more fully by both Steelers team medical professionals and the NFL’s independent neurologist. It was determined that Watt was okay to return to play, and he did so.
Watt was hit with a knee by New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott on the first defensive snap of the game. Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick tackled Elliott right into Watt, with Elliott’s knee impacting Watt’s facemask in the jaw area.
Watt stayed down on the field after taking the hit. He was helped off the field by Steelers trainers and examined on the sideline before being allowed to return to the field after just a few plays.
When Watt returned to the game, the Steelers had him wearing a tinted visor, and on the sideline, he was seen inhaling smelling salts. But he downplayed that part of the equation.
“I’m not really going to get into specifics,” Watt said of the visor. “I’ve worn a visor pre-game. I’ve worn a visor in practice. It’s not something that’s new for me, so I’ll leave it at that.”
Watt was seen wearing the same visor in practice on Thursday. It is standard that the review occurs whenever a player goes into protocol to ensure all the correct steps are taken. Watt said he has not heard the ‘scrutiny’ from the outside. But the NFL and NFLPA are looking into it.