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NFL fines Seahawks $100,000 for concussion protocol violation

Russell Wilson insists he “did nothing wrong” after leaving sideline without undergoing medical evaluation during November win over Cardinals

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Our long National Football League nightmare is over. After nearly two months of thorough examination and investigation, we must accept the findings and respond not with contention but conciliation. Even though it is late in the 2017 season, there is no way we can go forward except together. The concussion protocol works. Truth is the only glue that holds the NFL together after all—it is a league of rules and not of players or coaches or doctors. Here the protocol rules.

The NFL Thursday issued a $100,000 fine to the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson failing to submit to the concussion protocol during Seattle’s 22-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals on November 9. Although Wilson did not suffer a concussion on the hit by Karlos Dansby that did after all rearrange Wilson’s jawbone, the referee Walt Anderson instructed Wilson to leave the field and undergo a concussion evaluation. Wilson reinstalled himself in the game after one play, in violation of league-mandated procedure.

The Seahawks accepted the penalty without appeal, according to a public relations statement by the team:

According to ESPN’s report on the NFL’s decision, it’s the first fine ever apportioned under the league policy. Wilson on Thursday insisted that he “did nothing wrong” and wouldn’t have done anything differently, considering he didn’t have a concussion.

It’s incredible that this situation and the concluding “investigation” took so long to resolve, considering how few facts there were to examine—and it seems like bad luck Seattle ends up the first organization to pay this kind of sanction. But it’s also not much money in the long run for owner Paul Allen, and the team avoided worse punishment like lost draft picks or some other reparation that might have been more of a hindrance on future performance.

So it’s not really that big a deal, so long as the Seahawks are more rigorous in obeying the policies in the future. The NFL also says it will institute clearer provisions for following the protocol in these instances in the future, and remanded the Seattle staff to revisit proper training.

All joking about the NFL’s intensive and perhaps Kafkaesque review of this process aside, it seems like they made the right call. Regardless of whether Wilson had a concussion, the point of the protocol is to take that kind of responsibility away from the players or coaches who might have insufficient information and conflict of interest against making the more cautious decision. The fact the player appears to have been right in this case does not change the priority of protecting them against their own worse judgment. Indeed it illuminates that that’s how the process is supposed to work.