HOUSTON (AP) — Houston quarterback Tom Savage was cleared to re-enter Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers for one series after sustaining a concussion, raising questions about the NFL’s procedure for evaluating such injuries during games.
Savage was injured with about nine minutes remaining in the second quarter of Houston’s 26-16 loss when he was driven to the ground on a hit by Elvis Dumervil. Replays showed Savage looking dazed after his head hit the ground with both of his arms shaking and lifted upward .
He was taken to the medical tent where he stayed for less than three minutes before returning to the bench and going back in for the next series. He threw two incompletions on that drive, and Houston’s team doctor approached him after he returned to the sideline after that possession.
Savage tried repeatedly to enter the game on the next series. But a team official kept grabbing Savage’s jersey and finally his arm and pulled him away from the field. He could be seen arguing with that person and the team’s trainer before being escorted to the locker room.
Coach Bill O’Brien said he was evaluated for a concussion after the hit and cleared to return, but that he was evaluated again after he returned because “because of what they saw,” without providing details of what that was.
“They try to make the best decision for the player,” O’Brien said. “Whatever they see and the testing that they do they try to make the best decision with the player and they weren’t satisfied with the results of the second test so they decided to pull him, and that’s when he went into the locker room.”
O’Brien was then asked if it was worrisome that Savage was allowed to return to the game when he had a concussion.
“I don’t direct that. I don’t direct that at all,” he said. “They just come to me and that’s kind of where that’s at. I don’t have anything to do with that. All I do is coach.”
Several of Savage’s teammates said they didn’t notice anything different about him on the drive after he was injured, and T.J. Yates, who took over for him, said the same thing.
“When he got back to the sideline he seemed fine and coherent,” Yates said.
Savage and Yates are the only quarterbacks on Houston’s roster, so they’ll have to sign someone this week to back up Yates if Savage is unable to play on Sunday.
His injury is the latest setback for a team that has had more than its share of problems this year. Houston lost linebacker Brian Cushing for 10 games because of a suspension for performance enhancers. Defensive stars J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus both sustained season-ending injuries in Week 5.
Rookie Deshaun Watson took over at halftime of Houston’s season-opener after Savage struggled and made the offense one of the NFL’s most potent in six starts, but he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in practice on Nov. 2. The team suffered another blow on Nov. 19 when rookie running back D’Onta Foreman ruptured his left Achilles tendon.
The Texans (4-9) have gone 1-5 since Watson was injured to drop out of playoff contention after winning the AFC South title in each of the last two seasons.
“I’ve never been part of a team like this with this many injuries,” receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “I mean, guys the go out back-to-back, so it’s not something I don’t think anyone in this locker room has dealt with before.”
Hopkins had 149 yards receiving and two touchdowns , but lost a fumble in the fourth quarter with the Texans down by 7. San Francisco added 41-yard field goal after that to secure the victory.
Yates, who was signed after Watson was injured, threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns in his first game since Nov. 16, 2015.
“He went into a tough spot and I thought he did some really good things,” O’Brien said. “The ball came out. Thought we really struggled to run the ball today. We could not run the ball and that really hurt us. I thought T.J. made some really nice plays.”
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