"In athletics, especially in football, everybody's looking for a way to keep their kids healthy," said Stansbury, 59, who had arrived at 5:30 to get a jump on massages and stretches for players with problems.
Several thousand former pro players are suing the NFL, saying that it failed to warn them about the dangers of concussions. Temple's entry into the Big East may have put more pressure on the team, but nothing has changed in the training room, Stansbury said.
Before the players left for a 7:20 a.m. meeting, the trainers had weighed each one. Each would be weighed again at the end of practice to spot players at risk for dehydration. If any lose more than eight pounds in a practice, it raises eyebrows. They are expected to drink enough to bring their weight back to normal by the next day.
Each ankle is taped or braced every day, and all linemen wear a knee brace. "If you lose an offensive lineman, the backup may not be as good," Stansbury explained. "It can make a huge difference."
During a typical practice, the trainers use 50 rolls of athletic tape, 720 bottles of Gatorade, 100 gallons of water, and 2,200 pounds of ice. The players soak in tubs of ice water at the end of practice to cool down and help their muscles recover more quickly.
That cloudy morning, Stansbury massaged muscles, taped ankles and a damaged finger, made a semi-rigid cast to protect a bruise on one player's leg, checked the weather to make sure there was no lightning nearby, and monitored medication. Hot pads were in high demand and many players were hooked to machines that stimulate injured muscles with electricity.
"You get so you know who's got what that's really serious," he said. "Throughout the day, I'll lay my hands on most of them."
All medicine comes through him, so no one takes something that might make him fail a drug test.
The player with the injured finger asked for pain medicine after trying to force his hand into a glove. Stansbury told him he could have Advil.
"Don't tell me that," the player protested. "Advil don't work." "You'll never get anything different from me," Stansbury said mildly.
In two weeks of practice, the team had had three confirmed concussions and another possible in a player with a history of migraine headaches. One of the players was still out, having told Stansbury that he "just doesn't feel right." The Inquirer was asked not to use players' names.
Identifying concussion has long been a priority for the team, Stansbury said. All players in contact sports are given computerized neurocognitive tests to measure their baseline reaction times and thinking skills. After a hit that leaves them with any concussion symptoms such as headache or nausea, they can't play again until they come back to baseline.
Most can return five to 10 days after working their way through an exercise protocol that gradually progresses from low-impact exercise on a stationary bike to full contact. They are given the test again before they go back on the team. "I could take their word for it," Stansbury said, "but they're not always honest."
The team started the testing - on paper - about 14 years ago. Players are much more aware of concussions now and more likely to tell him about their own symptoms or those of teammates.
Intentional head-to-head collisions are no longer allowed, and players can be thrown out of a game or suspended for behavior that once would have drawn only a penalty, Stansbury said.
Stansbury said Temple's football coach, Steve Addazio, also tells the players to take care of each other in practice and allows them to hit each other only during certain periods. "Coaches have gotten much better at recognizing that beating on kids the way they used to do 10 years ago in practice is counterproductive," the trainer said.
On Saturday, the players were on the field by 8 a.m. and Stansbury stood on the sideline, dwarfed by their padded and helmeted bodies, his shorts pockets loaded with a pair of scissors, a CPR mask and a face mask removal kit. He tore up his own knee playing high school football and went into training after no one could fix it to his satisfaction.
Stansbury tended one player that morning, a lineman whose hand went numb after he got hit in the elbow. You never know what will happen, he said. "Whenever we walk on the field, we're prepared for an emergency."
Contact staff writer Stacey Burling at 215-854-4944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.