McElroy's New York Jets teammates said they were aware the quarterback was suffering from post-concussion symptoms and hiding it from the coaching staff before he came forward Thursday morning. Jets coach Rex Ryan announced that Mark Sanchez will start in the season finale, which probably wasn't a surprise to some of McElroy's teammates.
"He came to my room (on Tuesday night), and we talked about it," wide receiver Clyde Gates told ESPNNewYork.com. "He was hurting real bad. I was like, 'Bro, I know, I've been down that road already. I'm just saying you can't try to tough it out 'cause you going to end up hurting yourself. You've got to let everybody know how you really feel.' "
Said guard Matt Slauson: "(McElroy) definitely has that (warrior) mentality, but it got to the point where it was scaring him."
McElroy "didn't look right" at team meetings, according to backup quarterback Tim Tebow. McElroy wrestled for days with the decision to tell coaches about his health, which helps to illuminate the difficult nature of concussion reporting.
There is immense pressure to play on Sundays, especially for McElroy. He knows his next chance to start in an NFL game might not come for a very long time. Teams rely on players to report symptoms, and players have to accept the harsh consequences for their future health. Alex Smith essentially lost his job as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback because of a concussion.
No matter how much focus there is on concussion testing, players also have to help themselves. Players routinely played through unreported concussions in the past, and the practice still happens. Slauson admitted he has played through at least two concussions that he didn't tell coaches about -- one at Nebraska and one with the Jets.
"I didn't feel like it warranted (being reported)," Slauson said. "I was in bad shape, but I could focus on my plays. I figured I'd pop a couple of Aspirin and be fine."
Thankfully, McElroy didn't go that route. But his struggle to come forward is telling.
"I think, hopefully, this will be an example to all the players," Ryan said.