Confusion swirls around Alex Smith head injury

One day after the Kansas City Chiefs reported quarterback Alex Smith exited the game against Indianapolis with a concussion, the team reversed course, stating Smith passed the league’s protocol tests and showed no symptoms of a concussion.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid addresses the media during this weekly Monday press conference at the team's training complex in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo by Matt Derrick,
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid addresses the media during this weekly Monday press conference at the team’s training complex in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo by Matt Derrick,

“We don’t think that either episode he had a concussion,” said Rick Burkholder, the team’s head athletic trainer.

Smith left the 30-14 win over the Colts twice after absorbing contact to the helmet. Following the first incident on the team’s first drive, the quarterback appeared to stagger while arising from the turf. Smith returned to the game and took another shot to the helmet in the third quarter, remaining on the ground while trainers assessed his condition.

The confusion arose during Smith’s second concussion protocol examination, according to Burkholder. The team’s medical staff determined Smith would not return to following the second injury while they completed the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Burkholder then told the team’s public relations staff that Smith was out of the game with a concussion, even though he had not yet completed the mandated testing. Smith later passed the league’s concussion protocol a second time.

Coach Andy Reid correctly told reporters after the game Smith passed the protocol both times, but a team spokesperson mistakenly indicated Smith failed the protocol the second time.

“I know it caused a lot of confusion, and I’m sorry about that,” Burkholder said.

The team continued monitor Smith after the game and through Monday morning, and Burkholder said the quarterback showed no signs of a concussion.

“He is absolutely asymptomatic,” Burkholder said.

He added that Smith could return to practice this week and play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, if he is cleared by an independent neurologist.

“We will go through the return to play protocol and see where he is at,” Burkholder said.

The team, however, has not yet definitely found a cause for Smith’s apparent lack of balance after the first hit and his remaining on the ground following the second collision. Smith did sustain a laceration on his ear and a hematoma, or fluid build up, behind both ears.

“We’re not absolutely sure why he had those events, and certainly the independent (neurologist) could shed some light on that for us,” Burkholder said.

Running back Spencer also left Sunday’s game with a head injury and did not return. Burkholder said Ware did not pass the second phase of the NFL’s protocol.


Linebacker Justin Houston made big strides in his work toward returning to the team’s roster, Reid said during his Monday press conference.

Houston remains on the physically unable to perform list. The team faces a deadline next Wednesday to activate the veteran linebacker, and Reid expected Houston to need one more week of work before the team makes its decision.

“What we’re going to do is take it like we have been, and just see how he does this week, and keep communication with him,” Reid said. “If he needs the week, he’s got this week and all the way up until next Wednesday.”

Reid called it a stretch Houston would return to play this Sunday against Jacksonville. He said Houston did expand his practice workload last week, adding full contact drills to his portfolio.

“You could tell his awareness was better out there,” Reid said. “The speed of the game looked like he was settling down to that a little bit.”


Orthopedic surgeon James Andrews examined the right knee of running back Jamaal Charles Monday, but the did team did not immediately release results of the evaluation.

Andrews performed surgery on Charles last October after the All-Pro back tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. Charles briefly returned to the field for the Chiefs, but developed swelling on the knee during practice for the team’s week six seven game against the New Orleans Saints.

Charles played just two snaps against the Saints, and the held him out of Sunday’s game against the Colts.

“This isn’t uncommon,” Reid said. “Let’s just figure out what it is and go from there.”

Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.