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BALL FIVE: Concussion protocol could create monumental change

In the NFL, concussion protocol is finally being taken seriously. That has led to the other professional sports doing a better job and that has led to the trickle-down effect in colleges and high schools.
Concussion protocol in Major League Baseball has led to a desire that could change the way the game has been played. And it’s been played this way since the first game in 1876.
There are baseball managers and other high-ranking officials who are wondering about an if. That if is, if a player goes into concussion protocol in say the second inning and he is cleared, should he be allowed back into the ball game?
The simple answer is yes, but there is nothing simple about it. In baseball, when a player comes out the game he is done. Baseball is not like the other sports in that respect. If a football player gets dinged, gets checked out and passes concussion protocol, he can go back to the game. That’s because football allows for free substitution.
While letting a baseball player return to the game would be the right thing to do, it is going to take a lot, a whole lot, for baseball to be able to change the way they operate.
Let’s say a second baseman and right fielder collide in the second inning. The second baseman takes a blow to the head. He comes out and another player takes his place. Now say that second baseman passes concussion protocol. If he is allowed back into the game, what happens to the player who took his place? Is he done for the game or is he allowed back in the game, say as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning? What if the original second baseman had made the last out in his team’s previous at bat. That team’s pitcher falls apart in the third inning and has to come out of the game. The manager does a double switch, taking the backup second baseman out of the game. An inning later, the starting second baseman passes concussion protocol. See where I’m going with this?
It’s a great idea, but I don’t see the rule changing, at least not for a long time, a lot of meetings, and a lot of headaches.
While we’re on the subject of rule changes, the NFL has its new rules on interference. The league is going to allow offensive and defensive pass interference to be part of instant replay, at least on a one-year trial basis.
Please don’t.
Remember when MLB started expanding instant replay. League officials said they were not going to be ticky-tack about such things as when a player slides into a base safe and his finger comes off the bag by a half-inch for a millisecond. But when baseball started using the new technology, the choice of not using it to its full capacity wasn’t there. If you, 37,000 people in the stands and a million viewers on TV, could all see that that player’s finger came off the bag, baseball did not have a choice, but call that guy out.
What’s going to happen in football when there is a close play. What will they do when, in regular speed it looks like a defensive back timed a play perfectly, but when the replay is slowed down dramatically, it shows that the defensive back hit the wide receiver when the ball was still six inches from hitting the receiver’s hands?
And with all the passing that goes on in the last two minutes of the game, NFL endings could become like they are in the NBA and NCAA basketball tournament where the game is stopped and the players go to the sideline for a free timeout while the officials go to the monitor to double check something they already had right (at least 90-some-odd-percent of the time).
Human error is part of sports. Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and officials make mistakes. Now it looks like the NFOL (National Football Overreacting League) is making a mistake, too. At least it looks that way to me. We’ll see on the replay.
Jim Schirber: If you read the obit page this week you saw Jim Schirber. He was a runner. Running put him in the annals of Tiger track. In 1949, Jim took second in the 880-yard run at the state track meet.