Category Archives: Sound Bites

Sound Bites IV

It’s accepted pretty much as fact that, until recently, no one paid much attention to concussions in the NFL. And by “no one,” I’m talking mostly about the league and the media who cover it. So it was a revelation to stumble across a newspaper story from 1953 that went into great detail about a player getting his bell rung.

The player was Billy Reynolds, a rookie running back for the Browns, who was making his pro debut in a preseason game against the 49ers. A summary of his day, according to UPI:

1. He ran head-on at full speed into [the Niners’] Hardy Brown, considered one of the hardest tacklers in the game.

2. He was picked up and carried off the field.

3. He was supposed to go into the game a short while later and never appeared, the Browns using only 10 men for one play.

4. In the fourth quarter, he ran on the field when he wasn’t supposed to, and the Browns were penalized for playing with 12 men.

Our sound bite, though, comes from Paul Brown, the Browns’ Hall of Fame coach, who had the following to say about the situation:

“Billy was completely out of his head after he and Hardy Brown collided. However, he is all right now. We could use him in the game against Los Angeles this weekend, but, just as a precautionary measure, we may not. He must have suffered some sort of a head concussion, although at the time we thought he was just shaken up.

“At the time of the crash, we didn’t think it was anything serious. But the shock to Billy’s system was such that he didn’t know what was going on. Guess we’ll just have to rest him up for a few days.”

The naiveté about head injuries is just stunning, isn’t it? That said, it’s interesting Brown even considered holding Reynolds out of the next game “as a precautionary measure.” Precaution and pro football didn’t always mix in those blood-and-guts years.

And sure enough, Reynolds suited up for the exhibition game against the Rams after just a four-day recovery period. He’s right there in the stats, carrying twice for minus-1 yard:

Browns Rams preseason stats

Sixty-one years later, here we are. Or rather, here the lawyers are, filing suits and working out settlements.

Sound Bites III

As we’re seeing with the Browns’ Johnny Manziel, NFL teams sometimes break in rookie quarterbacks ver-ry slowly, putting in packages for them every week until they’re ready to run the whole offense. It’s been that way since Y.A. Tittle had hair.

If Manziel ever gets discouraged, he should read this quote from one of the top quarterbacks in the 1964 draft, Jack Concannon — who, like Johnny Football, was a dangerous runner. (Later that year, he threw two touchdown passes and rushed for 99 yards to help the Eagles beat the Cowboys.) Moral: Things can always be worse.

“I was at halfback for three weeks because of injuries to three of our running backs, and I didn’t care for it too much. As a matter of fact, in my first game I was at left halfback. It was against the Giants, and the Eagles had started me with three plays — a halfback pass, an end run and a fake end run with a reverse.

“That’s the way [Packers Hall of Famer] Paul Hornung started, with three plays. The only trouble was the Giants knew the three plays, and you can imagine how I felt when they started calling them [out to one another]. The first play was a reverse, and we lost about 20 yards. The next one was the end run, and I gained maybe two yards. The third was the halfback pass, and I was smeared.

“That was my introduction to pro football. I thought the league would be rough. It was even rougher than I expected.”

Sound Bites II

“In the early ’30s our Brooklyn [Dodgers] team was [coached by] John J. McEwan. . . . Coach McEwan had an ironclad theory that there was no such thing as a legitimate end run, and it soon got around the league that we didn’t even have one from our tight double wing back formation. One day ‘Stumpy’ Thomason, a speedy halfback who had played at Georgia Tech, asked McEwan in utter frustration: ‘Coach, how do I run this play, anyway?’ McEwan, the former West Point head coach and English instructor, answered in a typical MacArthurian stanza:

“‘Son, dispatch yourself with the utmost precision and proceed as far as your individual excellency will permit.'”

— Herman Hickman, a guard on those Brooklyn teams, in the Feb. 7, 1955 issue of Sports Illustrated