The Bears will have to follow a stricter NFL policy regarding concussions before cornerback Charles Tillman can return to the practice field or consider playing in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.
Tillman was knocked out of Sunday's loss at Minnesota with what coach Lovie Smith has repeatedly called a "mild concussion.'' He did not practice today, and was seen driving out of the facility in the late morning.
Commissioner Roger Goodell notified teams today of an expanded return-to-play mandate for players who suffer concussions that takes effect immediately. The stricter guidelines was created by the league's medical committee on concussions in conjunction with the NFL Players Association.
"Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant. A critical element of managing concussions is candid reporting by players of their symptoms following an injury. Accordingly, players are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion."
"The evidence demonstrates that team medical staffs have been addressing concussions in an increasingly cautious and conservative way," Goodell wrote in his memo. "This new return-to-play statement reinforces our commitment to advancing player safety. Along with improved equipment, better education, and rules changes designed to reduce impacts to the head, it will make our game safer for the men who play it, and set an important example for players at all levels of play."
Smith pointed out that Tillman is not suffering from any post-concussion symptoms and does not have a history of them.
"We've always taken that [cautious] approach with our players with injuries, especially when you're dealing with a concussion,'' Smith said. "Charles has a mild concussion. I think that word now has taken on a new meaning with a lot of injuries, also. Charles has never had a history of any concussions or anything like that. He has no symptoms right now. We're always cautious. We take every precaution to look after our players.