Reid must rectify his unnecessary risks

Posted: November 30, 2012

ANDY REID announced his surrender on Tuesday with the release of Jason Babin and the cashiering of DeSean Jackson to injured reserve.

It should have come sooner, if only for the good of the team's most dynamic players. Had Reid not been so desperate to salvage his reputation, to win at any cost, Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick likely would be available for the Dallas trip.

Instead, Reid put at unnecessary risk the players to whom he committed more than $70 million since 2011.

Why call an end-around for the highest-paid of the undersized receivers?

Why have McCoy carrying the ball with less than 2 minutes to play in a blowout?

Why call two designed runs for smallish Michael Vick, the most battered quarterback in the league?

The three more disturbing images in a season of distressing images developed not on the football field, where carnage lay all around, but rather in the locker room, where carnage found its triage.

Head trainer Rick Burkholder was central to all three scenes.

The most unsettling of the three happened at FedEx Field after the loss to the Redskins. Burkholder guided concussed running back LeSean McCoy from the training tables behind a curtain in the visitors room. Burkholder held the back of McCoy's right arm with his left hand. McCoy actually shuffled his feet. He seemed incapable of speaking. Burkholder sat McCoy down at his locker, helped him undress, then guided him to the shower.

Less unsettling but similar: Burkholder ushered concussed quarterback Michael Vick from the mysterious depths of the Eagles' home dressing room, past the team's lockers and into the hallway beyond. Vick stared at the floor beneath him as though unsure that it would be there when his next step fell. Vick was knocked out of the game by Ernie Sims, but Vick had taken an unnecessary hit from end DeMarcus Ware on a called run three plays before he finally left the game.

The eeriest of the images came in foreshadow, long before the season was lost.

Behind a half-drawn curtain in the visitors' training room at University of Phoenix Stadium long after the Eagles' loss in Phoenix, Burkholder conducted what appeared to be a concussion test on Vick. Vick's arms were raised as he patiently endured what must have been a weekly exercise for the pair.

When Vick's brain finally succumbed to the season's ceaseless punishment, Vick was, by far, the most often hit quarterback.

Vick should not take another this season.

Neither should McCoy.

Jackson won't have to worry about it. He's on injured reserve. He's on injured reserve because his coaches believed it wise to call an end-around in the first quarter of their loss Monday night to woeful Carolina.

Once a secret weapon, Jackson now is a prime target for defenses. They go on full alert when he remains in the backfield. He had not had a run of more than 20 yards in 2 years.

Luke Kuechly was on full alert when Jackson began his run parallel to the line Monday night. Kuechly met him with 235 pounds of aggression, 60 pounds more than Jackson carries. He weighs almost 35 percent more than Jackson.

That's how Jackson's ribs and chest got fractured.

Fractured, in a game in which powerful running back Bryce Brown rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns. So, no, the Eagles didn't need to use their speedboat for tugboat work.

Coincidentally, the Birds declined to use Brown on the play that cost them their most valuable player as well.

Instead, trailing by 25 points at their own 36-yard line with 1:58 to play and one timeout, Reid gave McCoy the carry . . . 

"Because we were trying to catch up and win the game."

That was the most insulting, demeaning response Reid has issued in his 14 seasons in Philadelphia. Winning was impossible.

The Eagles needed at least four possessions to catch the Redskins. Four possessions. In less than 2 minutes. With one timeout.

That means they would have had to recover three onside kicks.

They would have had to score three touchdowns.

Reid simply would not admit his error. He treated the question with contempt; actually, it was beneath his contempt, because he uttered the same response twice.

It was McCoy, and McCoy's well-being, that Reid treated with contempt.

He can rectify that now.

Despite the NFL's evolving concussion protocols, common sense - and reams of research papers - indicates that it takes weeks or months to fully recover from the sort of head hits Vick and McCoy took. They make millions to put themselves at risk. Their union has agreed to the safety standards. But, now, to what end?

McCoy, 24, is in his prime. Why risk him? To salvage meaningless wins in a lost season?

Brian Westbrook suffered two concussions in 3 weeks in 2009. He said he came back from the first one too soon.

Westbrook played in only 14 more games and was finished at age 31.

Vick is 32, and as tough and brave as anyone in the league. He also is 6 feet tall, weighs 215 pounds and plays behind perhaps the worst pass protection in football.

You can pad a helmet and insert a mouthpiece, but there is no way to keep the brain stationary when DeMarcus Ware is intent on rattling it.

Whether in Philadelphia or elsewhere, Vick has good years left in the NFL . . . but only if he can think straight.

At this point, it is Reid's job to make sure that he can.


Columns: Hayes

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