Head-injury rule will bar players' return

Updated: November 29, 2009, 3:30 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN

The NFL and NFL Players Association are finalizing a policy that would effectively prohibit a player from re-entering a game that he exits with a concussion-related injury.

Such a policy will be effective immediately once both sides sign off on the document.

"We're really at a stage where we're dotting the i's and crossing the t's," Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFLPA's medical director, said on Saturday. "We're waiting on the final draft."

Also under discussion with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a policy that would arbitrarily prohibit a player from playing the subsequent week after suffering a concussion.

That concept needs further debate, sources said, although it would enable teams to prepare competitively with knowledge they would be missing a player as opposed to awaiting any post-concussion symptoms late in a week, such as what has occurred recently with the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, the Cardinals' Kurt Warner and the Eagles' Brian Westbrook, who were late scratches from games.

Any new concussion policy that forces a player to sit out games is expected to drive a discussion by the league competition committee that would expand game-day rosters beyond the current 45 available players.

Earlier in the week, the league announced a series of initiatives aimed at advancing management of concussion-related injuries. Most significantly, the league and the union will assign neurologists to each team.

"What you're seeing publicly this week is the result of a lot of hard work by both sides," Mayer said. "I give a lot of credit to Roger Goodell and I give a lot of credit to De Smith [NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith]. From the moment De took over the job, he made it clear that the health and safety of our players is non-negotiable."

One idea that Smith and Mayer have discussed is establishing a joint account or NFLPA account that would pay doctors bills, especially neurologists. Currently, teams are solely responsible for medical expenses.

Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.