Where’s the outrage for Pat Freiermuth?
If seeing Tua Tagovailoa stiff and unconscious on the turf bothered you, Freiermuth’s current situation should, too.
Freiermuth’s 1-4 Pittsburgh Steelers face the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. And as of Thursday’s injury report, Freiermuth still has a chance to play in that game.
This is unacceptable.
Just five days ago in Buffalo, Freiermuth hauled in a pass from Kenny Pickett and promptly was crushed by a trio of Bills defenders. At least one of those defenders caught Freiermuth high in the head, and he was knocked out cold on the spot.
Freiermuth left the game and didn’t return.
Like Tagovailoa, Freiermuth didn’t just get his bell rung. He suffered a severe, clear-cut knockout on the field and remained down for several moments before regaining consciousness and making his way off the field.
That he has a chance to play again if he clears the NFL’s concussion protocol –– and could potentially take another hit to the head –– just seven days later is a problem. It’s a disservice to Freiermuth’s safety and to his long-term health.
After the Tagovailoa situation, you’d think somebody would intervene and force players to take more recovery time after suffering concussions. But nope. Freiermuth’s status remains up in the air just 50 hours (and counting down) until kickoff.
Look, as the general manager of a local MMA organization in Pittsburgh, I’ve seen plenty of knockouts. More importantly, I know what happens after a fighter gets knocked out in the cage.
First, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission serves them a mandatory suspension, usually 60 days. Sixty days. Six-zero.
Then, after that period of time –– 60 days! –– the fighter needs to be cleared by a qualified neurosurgeon to compete again.
Is MMA perfect at protecting brain health? Absolutely not. It’s a brutal sport with brutal consequences, just like football.
But is there a genuine attempt to keep fighters safe? Absolutely.
That 60-day period is crucial. It’s widely understood and accepted that multiple concussive events occurring close together are particularly damaging. The brain can heal to a degree, but it takes time and pampering.
Imagining a scenario where a fighter gets knocked out one Saturday and returns to fight again the following Saturday is preposterous and would not happen in any respectable, sanctioned environment.
The NFL can’t say the same. You’re telling me regional mixed martial arts figured this out before the biggest, wealthiest sport in the United States?
I repeat: It’s disgusting.
Now, I’m not saying every NFL player who suffers a concussion needs to take 60 days away from the sport before even thinking about returning. I do think there is a potential middle ground to be found.
But in a short, 17-game season, I understand the NFL and its teams have an obligation to entertain fans and to generate revenue on several levels. To that end, they certainly don’t want players missing two-month chunks of time.
Maybe 60 days isn’t the answer. A mandatory two-or-three-week recovery, followed by evaluation, is reasonable though.
Freiermuth’s situation isn’t unique, unfortunately.
It’s possible Tagovailoa’s second concussion only happened at all because of the first –– and its severity was almost definitely worsened because of the timing.
That’s the thing with concussions. They don’t just happen again. They happen again –– and worse (and worse and worse and worse…).
For Freiermuth, Sunday’s injury marks his third diagnosed concussion in just 21 games as a professional.
It’s not a good trend for him.
There’s absolutely no need to rush him back out to the field, either. It’s not the Super Bowl. It’s not a make-or-break rivalry contest to sneak into the playoffs.
It’s a Week 6 showdown against an NFC opponent. I hope the Steelers learned a lesson from the Dolphins with this one.
Sit Freiermuth –– and sit him for a while.
It’s a no-brainer.