Overseeing the symposium was Troy Vincent, a former cornerback who suffered at least seven concussions during his career from 1992 to 2006. Named the NFL's vice president of player engagement in 2010, part of Vincent's job portfolio is to alter the play-through-pain culture that pervades the league. When Vincent was a rookie, there was no such thing as a symposium; all he got by way of orientation to the NFL was a 12-page pamphlet.
"You didn't talk about health and safety at that time," he said. "There was no conversation around concussion awareness. The term 'wellness' wasn't in most people's vocabulary. You just played the game."
Kyle will receive a 60-page handbook, both in hard copy and in electronic form for his mobile devices. Once the regular season starts, he also will get text messages as reminders of best practices. "We're looking ourselves in the mirror," Vincent said. "We don't shy away from mistakes, things that we didn't do well. We are constantly evaluating ourselves."
Day 2 of the rookie symposium was devoted entirely to health and safety. The head team physician for the Cleveland Browns, Mark Schickendantz, fired up a PowerPoint presentation and began talking. A series of slides flashed bold-letter slogans such as, "If we don't know you're hurt, we can't help you!"
Schickendantz devoted a few minutes to Toradol, a powerful anti-inflammatory abused by league doctors and players as an injected prophylactic in recent years and has become the subject of a concussion-related litigation. "We don't do that anymore," he said.
Schickendantz moved on to his next topic: concussions. "It's never an insignificant injury. . . . Don't hide it," he said. "It's not in your best interest to hide it." New protocols include certified athletic trainers in stadium booths watching for symptoms and video replay on the sidelines to study the mechanics of injury. In 2013, there will be the addition of an independent neurological specialist stationed on each sideline, a move some team medical staffs are welcoming more than others. "It's not mandatory that you guys go sit with this guy and talk to him if there's a question about a concussion," Schickendantz said. He added, "We're still kind of figuring out how to use these people."