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NFL earns all-protocol honors

Seahawks receiver Percy Harvsuffered his first concussidivisional playgame against Saints. | Ted S. Warren/AP

Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin suffered his first concussion in the divisional playof game against the Saints. | Ted S. Warren/AP

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Updated: March 3, 2014 5:31PM



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — He’d never suffered a concussion before, that he knew of.

He’d never had his helmet taken away or trainers standing over him, asking him the date or his name or the president’s name.

When it happened Jan. 11 in the divisional round of the playoffs, Percy Harvin returned to the field.

The Seahawks wideout passed concussion protocol after the Saints’ Rafael Bush was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Seattle’s third play.

Back in the game, Harvin’s head slammed to the turf on a second-quarter incompletion. He was diagnosed with his first-ever concussion.

“It’s a feeling you don’t want to feel,” he said.

And the team took his helmet.

After missing the rest of the Saints game and all of the NFC Championship Game, Harvin will return Sunday for the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.

In a league haunted by head injuries, its biggest day is no different: the Super Bowl’s two most dynamic receivers suffered scary concussions this year.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker suffered two in a 22-day span in December.

This week, the NFL cited progress in concussion prevention, but it will take more than that for the ghosts of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau — who shot themselves in the chest, so we can study their brains — and others to slip away silently.

Harvin, who’s played only two games this year because of hip and head injuries, is more appreciative of the league’s concussion guidelines since suffering one of his own.

Many scientists link concussions to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, depression, dementia and suicide.

Harvin, though, said he wasn’t troubled about the future of his brain.

“This was my first,” Harvin said. “If I was a guy that had three or four, then of course I would look at it a little differently.”

Ask Welker, who missed three games after his second concussion before returning and wearing an oversized helmet.

I asked if he worries about his life 20 years from now.

“I live in the now,” he said, “and try to live it up the best I can, and enjoy it.”

Welker has friends who have concussion-related brain issues already.

“It’s one of those deals you kind of have to deal with,” he said, “and make the best decision for yourself.”

Earlier this week, he said he’d stay in the Super Bowl even if he suffered a concussion.

An ESPN poll of players said 85 percent would do the same thing.

Luckily, the league’s protocols make that more difficult than a few years earlier.

“They actually won’t let you play now,” Welker said.

Even so, concussions have dominated the league.

In March, the league announced a rule to reduce hitting with the crown of the helmet.

In August, it agreed to a $765 million medical settlement with former players, though a judge failed to grant it preliminary approval last month.

The NFL said this week that 228 concussions were diagnosed during the preseason and regular season, down 13 percent from the 261 in 2012.

Helmet-to-helmet hits caused 90 of them in 2013, down from 117.

“We made changes to the rules, we made changes to our equipment and there’s been changes in the way we deal with concussions when they do occur,” commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday.

According to he television show “Frontline,” though, one-third of all concussions suffered this year did not appear on an injury report.

Goodell claimed “the culture is changing.”

It took a concussion for Harvin to change.

“I did listen to a lot of the doctors,” he said, “that I didn’t previously listen to before.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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