NFL, NFLPA anticipate changes to concussion protocol


The best thing that can be said about the Tua Tagovailoa concussion drama is that the league and the players union seem on the verge of taking the game to a safer place with their joint admission that they “anticipate changes to the [concussion] protocol” in the coming days.

But the process of how they’re getting there is clunky, at best. From the time Tagovailoa was slammed to the turf in Miami eight days ago, to being rag-dolled to the turf in Cincinnati Thursday night and stretchered off the field, what seemed obvious over the five-day period was made questionable by the adults in the room. And late Saturday, after reports of the NFL players union dismissing the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC), which is their right under the concussion protocol, the league and union admitted they had a fractured process.

“The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety,” Saturday’s joint statement said. “The NFLPA’s Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee and the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee have already begun conversations around the use of the term ‘Gross Motor Instability’ and we anticipate changes to the protocol being made in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process.”

When I talked to NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills Sunday morning, he stressed that no decisions had yet been made about changes to the concussion protocol. He made the point that it’s possible that when players stumble on the field after a play—as Tagovailoa did against Buffalo four days before he was concussed in Cincinnati—it’s not always because of head trauma. “Sometimes players stumble and it’s not coming from the brain,” Sills said. “Did he (Tagovailoa) stumble from a brain concern or something else?”

It’s plausible, of course. We’ve got to be cognizant that it’s possible—possible—that Tagovailoa might not have had head trauma the previous Sunday against Buffalo, when he was shoved by linebacker Matt Milano and his head slammed against the turf. Tagovailoa claims it was his back, not head, that hurt. And apparently the UNC and Dolphins team medical officer who examined him at the half agreed, because he returned to play that afternoon.

But there’s a problem with clearing a player to return to play after he: a) has his head slammed to the turf; b) demonstrates instability getting up; c) has to go to a knee to steady himself to avoid falling. First, did the medical officials see the back of Tagovailoa’s head slam into the turf? They should have, because they’re supposed to review visual evidence of the incident. And when the head hits the turf at great force, and it is followed by a player appearing punch-drunk and needing to go to the ground to avoid falling, that must be cause for a player to be removed from the game immediately.

Mike Florio reported Sunday night that the “gross motor instability” loophole is going to be removed from the concussion protocol. That is the best result from this ugly situation.

Not that other factors should come into play on a pure safety issue. But you’d be naïve to think the NFL isn’t concerned about its long-term talent pool. And think of parents of young athletes who saw Tagovailoa get knocked down, return to play, then get stretchered off the field four days later. What must they be thinking?

I asked my readers, particularly those with kids who might play football, how the situation affected them. This, from George Recine of Andover, Mass.: “I played four years of high school and four years of college football. I believe strongly in the good football has done for me and can do for my 9-year-old son. I want him to be able to play when the time comes. But my wife was watching the game with me Thursday night, and when Tua’s fingers locked in that grotesque position she turned to me and said, ‘And that’s why Charlie’s not playing football.’ What possible comeback could I have had?”

Multiply Recine by how many? Fifty thousand? More? Don’t dismiss those parents. They matter to the NFL.

The NFL says it’s serious about player health and head trauma. Now’s the time to prove it. Force a player to the bench when he suffers a major blow to the head and can’t stand or walk straight. In this case, that’s where the fix must start.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings: Zay Flowers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba top list


The 2023 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and across all positions, fans are eagerly tracking the names to know to see what prospects can bolster their team in the upcoming season. A top-quality pass-catcher is on the wish list for more than a few franchises, and ahead of the draft on April 27th, Chris Simms broke down his picks for the top five wide receivers in this year’s draft class, starting with Boston College’s Zay Flowers, who’s been rumored to be of interest for both the Saints and the Patriots. Stay tuned to the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast for the next month as Simms breaks down his rankings for every position group, and read on for the rest of his wide receiver rankings.

RELATED: Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings: C.J. Stroud leads the way, and a tie at No. 5

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Rankings

Tier One

1. Zay Flowers, Boston College

2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Tier Two

3. Quentin Johnston, TCU

4. Michael Wilson, Stanford

Tier Three

5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms Top 5 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receivers

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft WR Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ WR draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1 Zay Flowers (Boston College)

What Simms Said: “The position versatility – he can play inside or outside. Some of the best releases in the draft are from Zay Flowers. He is pedal to the metal every play, every cut, everything he does. The build, the style of running…I think he looks like Antonio Brown. He is an unbelievable route runner, along with the explosive athlete. You’re really getting a three-in-one here with speed burner on the outside, speed burner on the inside, and slot receiver inside. I wrote Jaylen Waddle, that’s a guy he reminds me of…(He) plays bigger than his measurables say. To me, he’s a top-20 pick.”

No. 2 Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

What Simms Said: “The speed is not blazing…but what’s off the charts good is the guy’s quickness and route running. His ability to come off the ball and be going 70% and almost jump in the air at the six-yard mark…it’s like Allen Iverson with an unbelievable crossover dribble. He’s got this unbelievable ability to change direction and then accelerate in a hurry. His ability after the catch…the first guy never tackles him…He reminds me of Jarvis Landry, to a greater version. This guy is about as high level of a route runner as you’re going to see in college.”

No. 3 Quentin Johnson, TCU

What Simms Said: “Tee Higgins-ish with more explosive ability than Higgins had coming out. He can catch the six-yard shallow cross and run 80 yards for a touchdown. His ability to jump – it’s a 40.5 inch vertical – plus he’s 6’3” and his arms look like they’re ridiculously long. He’s Drake London-ish from last year, except he doesn’t have the route running but has more of the straight speed…He’s one of the most physically impressive wide receivers in recent memory. You don’t see a lot of the route variety…but he shows the ability to change direction with the ball in his hands. He has better feet, quickness, and suddenness than most people with his size.”

No. 4 Michael Wilson, Stanford

What Simms Said: “This is where we’re going to go a little unconventional…But if you watch the film, you go, ‘There’s no doubt this is one of the best three or four receivers in this draft.’ There’s nothing he doesn’t do that’s top-notch…He ran a 4.58 at the Combine in the 40, (but) he plays way faster than that…The physical specimen is real, let alone the refined things you like to see in a receiver are real too. He can be another guy who could be inside or outside because he’s got the pure size and strength and speed to beat you outside but has the route running and it looks like the smarts to be that slot guy that catches your eye as well.”

No. 5 Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee 

What Simms Said: “If you like speed, then you like Jaylin Hyatt…This is a track start, straight-liner, DeSean Jackson-, Will Fuller-ish type of receiver. So, there’s going to be things about him that you love, there’s going to be some things about him that I’m not crazy about. He’s not a great route runner…I truly question whether he can do it, unlike the other guys where I try to piece things together. You can watch a bunch of catches and he never makes anybody miss, that’s not his game…If there’s a seam straight away, watch out…If he gets a free release or gets off the line of scrimmage the right way and you have a safety that doesn’t get back instantly, see ya. It’s going to be a 60-yard post for a touchdown. That’s where he’s special.”

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!