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League, union to probe Browns' concussion protocol

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Representatives from the NFL and NFL Players Association will meet with the Cleveland Browns' medical staff Tuesday morning to determine if proper protocol was followed regarding concussion-like symptoms suffered by quarterback Colt McCoy last week, league and union sources said.

The outcome of the meeting -- two representatives from the NFLPA are expected to interview McCoy -- could determine if changes in team policy or the policy negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement are needed, sources said.

There's also the possibility the NFLPA could file a grievance should it be found McCoy was allowed to play without being administered the proper evaluation to determine if he had a concussion.

This is the first time since the new CBA was ratified last summer that the union has sent representatives to investigate a team's handling of a medical situation.

"We're going to continue to gather information about this incident," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "Until we have a full set of data, we will pursue this with full confidentiality."

The NFL had no comment.

McCoy had to leave Thursday night's 14-3 Browns loss in the fourth quarter after taking a vicious helmet-to-head hit from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. However, McCoy returned two plays later.

Following the game, McCoy started to show concussion-like symptoms, and he was held out of a one-hour, non-contact practice Monday while still being evaluated at the team facility. McCoy later was sent home.

Browns coach Pat Shurmer reiterated Monday that the medical staff told him McCoy was clear to return to play, but he didn't specifically say if the quarterback received concussion evaluations. McCoy's father, Brad, said last week the Browns shouldn't have let his son return to the game.

Retired running back Brian Westbrook suffered two concussions in three weeks while with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. He said he hadn't seen the McCoy hit but said there is "no excuse" for teams to risk further damage.

"You have a lot of teams that will try to mask head injuries to get players back on the field," said Westbrook, who was knocked unconscious during a game but said the Eagles' medical staff was diligent before clearing him to play. "There's no excuse today with as much emphasis as the league has put on protecting guys, especially with concussions.

"The problem with concussions is you can't get a brain transplant. You can fix knees and ankles but not the brain."

Westbrook also said he's in favor of having an independent neurologist at stadiums on game days, an option that seems to be gaining more attention.

"You have ambulances and a lot of other types of specialists at games," Westbrook said. "Why wouldn't you have an independent neurologist there to tell teams if a guy can or cannot return to the game?"

The NFL's sideline concussion assessment can be found on NFLHealthandSafety.com.

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