BEREA, Ohio — The NFL will require teams to place certified athletic trainers in the press box to help monitor head injuries, a change prompted by the Browns' failure to test quarterback Colt McCoy for a concussion.
League spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that memos are being sent to all 32 clubs Tuesday or Wednesday to explain the new protocol, which is expected to begin with this week's games. Aiello said the trainer will be able to monitor the entire game without distraction and inform medical personnel on the sideline of any potential head injuries.
The implementation of the added trainer was first reported by Charley Casserly of CBS.
The Browns have not yet been informed of the change.
McCoy remains sidelined with the concussion sustained Dec. 8 when he was laid out on an illegal helmet-to-face mask hit by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. Although he was flattened by Harrison's vicious hit, the second-year QB was not tested for a concussion and the Browns sent him back in the game after two plays.
McCoy has not yet been cleared to practice by Browns doctors. Coach Pat Shurmur said Seneca Wallace will "likely" make his second straight start for Cleveland on Saturday in Baltimore.
Shurmur refused to officially name Wallace his starter, but said, "At this point, more than likely he'll be the starter, for sure."
In the aftermath of McCoy's injury, which took place during a nationally televised game, the league sent a medical team to Cleveland last week to meet with the Browns. Commissioner Roger Goodell also took part in a four-hour conference call to discuss the team's handling of McCoy's injury, which revealed some gray areas in the league's policy on handling concussions.
Players Association representatives were also involved in the discussions. The NFLPA may still file a grievance on McCoy's behalf.
Team president Mike Holmgren explained that the Browns' medical and training staff did not test McCoy for a concussion on the field or sideline because he did not display symptoms of a concussion and that trainers and doctors did not see Harrison's devastating blow because they were attending to other injured players.
By adding an overseeing trainer, the league is hoping an extra set of eyes will help medical staffs on the sideline spot injuries and get injured players necessary care.
The Browns have had eight players sustain 11 concussions this season. Tight end Benjamin Watson was placed on injured reserve last week after getting his third concussion since July. Fullback Owen Marecic was just cleared to practice Tuesday after getting two concussions in four weeks.
Tight end Evan Moore was pleased to hear the league was considering changes to protect players.
"Unfortunately we have to be a little more reactive than proactive with this stuff because sometimes you just don't know until something happens the best way to handle it," said Moore, who suffered a concussion during training camp. "But thank goodness all of our guys are OK, and if it leads to change in the system, then that's good.
"It's unfortunate, but if it leads to change for the better in how we protect players, then so be it."
McCoy has still not fully recovered from the Harrison hit, which took place 12 days ago and is having lasting reverberations around the league. Harrison was suspended one game without pay and sat out Pittsburgh's 20-3 loss Monday night in San Francisco
McCoy was at the team's facility Tuesday. He received treatment from the team's training staff, took part in meetings and was sent home before practice.
Shurmur said he spoke with McCoy "for a long time" but does not know if the 25-year-old has sought any outside medical opinions or advice. Watson visited a specialist on head injuries before he was shut down last week.
"We're going through the process of getting him back," Shurmur said. "He's been evaluated by all of our specialists, our doctors. We are going through the process of bringing him back from what was deemed a concussion. I can't speak for what he's done behind the scenes."
Shurmur was vague about what symptoms McCoy was still experiencing and wouldn't speculate if his starting QB will play in the Jan. 1 season finale against Pittsburgh.
Per league policy, McCoy can't speak with the media until he is given medical clearance. McCoy last met with reporters following the game in Pittsburgh, which is when the Browns say he first began showing signs of a concussion.
"Like anybody that wants to play, he's anxious to get back out there," Shurmur said. "But he understands there is a process that you have to go through before he will be able to play again."
NOTES: Marecic said both of his concussions came on lead blocks, which happens to be his job. "It happens," said Marecic, who credited Cleveland's medical staff. "I just have to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. It's been frustrating. It's a physical game. I'm just excited to get back."... The Browns placed TE Alex Smith (left shoulder) and LB Titus Brown (right knee) on injured reserve. Shurmur said Brown will undergo surgery. The team also promoted LB Brian Smith from the practice squad and signed TE Dan Gronkowski, the brother of New England star TE Rob Gronkowski. ... The Browns also signed WR Torrey Grissett and LB Craig Robertson to their practice squad.
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