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In Cleveland, hope dies last

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Better effort, same result, more controversy

The Browns finally came through with what looked like a solid effort Thursday night against Pittsburgh, but of course it wasn’t enough, as they fell to the Steelers.

That’s nothing new for the franchise, as the Browns have now lost 15 times in the past 16 games and 21 times in the past 23 games against Pittsburgh.

No matter who is the coach, no matter what offense or defensive system the team runs, the Browns have come up short time and again against the Steelers.

But, this being the Browns, it can never just be about another loss.

Colt McCoy’s concussion – thanks to an illegal hit from James Harrison – and how the coaches and medical staff handled it during the game have put the franchise in a spotlight that is better left avoided.

After sitting only just two plays, McCoy came back in and threw an interception in the end zone. Whether or not McCoy should have been back in the game so quickly has now become an issue.

And the Browns find themselves facing questions of “what did they know and when did they know it?”

“We go through the strict protocol to evaluate whether there is concussion like symptoms,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Friday. “Seneca (Wallace) was in the game for two plays. I was told that Colt could go back in the game. He came up right next to me and said, ‘I’m ready to roll,’ so he went back in.”

McCoy’s dad had a different take on the matter.

“He never should’ve gone back in the game,” Brad McCoy told The Plain Dealer. “He was basically out (cold) after the hit. You could tell by the ridigity of his body as he was laying there. There were a lot of easy symptoms that should’ve told them he had a concussion. He was nauseated and he didn’t know who he was. From what I could see, they didn’t test him for a concussion on the sidelines. They looked at his (left) hand.”

Wait, what? McCoy’s dad is speaking up? Oh boy.

We get that McCoy is worried about his son, but does he really think talking to the media is going to help? Colt McCoy is not a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, he’s the starting quarterback (for now) on a (presumably) NFL team.

No matter how you feel, it’s not really your place to talk out about how the team is handling things. That’s what agents are for; or, if you are Kellen Winslow, you handle things yourself.

It seems unlikely that the Browns would put McCoy back in the game if they didn’t think he was alright. After all, at various times this year (including Thursday night) they have kept Ben Watson, Owen Marecic, Mohamed Massaquoi and Scott Fujita out of games after they suffered concussions.

“I felt like the management from the point that it happened through yesterday was just fantastic,” linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, said in October after Fujita was diagnosed with a concussion. “So that makes me feel really, really good. I couldn’t be happier with the way (trainer) Joe Sheehan and our doctors handled everything.

“Obviously there’s so much heightened awareness [in the NFL about concussions] and I’m an older guy in my career and with a family and stuff, so certainly you think about those big-picture things,” he said. “But again, I feel confident in the doctors and stuff and trust me, I know a lot about this issue, I’m on every email list. I think I’m pretty up to date on some of the concerns, so, yeah, I feel good about where I’m at right now.”

If the team was so careful with the other players, why would they just rush McCoy out there without checking him out or if they thought he was injured?

“If he would’ve shown symptoms of a concussion, then, I wouldn’t have put him back in the game,” Shurmur said. “It would’ve been out of my hands anyway because I would’ve been told he can’t go back in the game. With the way it happens, that was a tough, physical game. Everybody got knocked around. If he had the symptoms, he would not have gone back in the game, absolutely not. He just said, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go.’ I was told he was ready to go too.”

According to The Plain Dealer, McCoy was coherent in answering questions after the game and accurately described the interception. By the time the team arrived in Berea — about 2 a.m. — McCoy was woozy enough that teammate Evan Moore had to drive him home. By Friday morning, he drove himself to the Berea facility for further exams and was diagnosed with a concussion.

The fact McCoy’s conditioned worsened in the hours after the game fits in with what Fujita said happened to him.

“It’s one of those things that kind of builds and builds,” Fujita said about his concussion. “I feel good that I have a couple teammates and a coach who kind of noticed that my demeanor was off and they alerted the people.”

So it seems possible that McCoy was coherent enough that the team doctors would clear him to go back in the game, even if it turns out after the fact that they really should not have. The Browns probably mishandled the situation, but it seems unlikely they did it with the intent of putting McCoy in danger.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it’s that the Browns have an extra three days off before their next game in Arizona, which gives McCoy extra time to rest. But at this point, the Browns should really hold him out of the Cardinal game to make sure he’s OK.

Having Seneca Wallace start one game isn’t going to hurt anything. Wallace is not a threat to take the starting job and, even if he misses one game, we’re confident that the Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, Shurmur power trio will have seen enough of McCoy this year to be able to make an accurate determination on him at the end of the season.

Now if they could just keep Brad McCoy away from the microphones.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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