Midway through the third quarter of the Michigan football team’s game against Rutgers on Saturday, redshirt sophomore safety Jeremy Clark slowly came off the field, holding his left shoulder.
Clark was escorted to the bench by a pair of trainers where he was attended to by a handful of medical professionals. Assistant athletic trainers Lenny Navitskis and Phil Johnson patrolled the sideline “wired in” with each other and select medical staff.
Clark’s injury, albeit one unrelated to the head, was one of the first examples of Athletic Director Dave Brandon’s initiative to improve communication between members on the sideline put to action.
After sophomore quarterback Shane Morris was allowed back on the field despite sustaining a “probable, mild concussion” against Minnesota, and wasn’t diagnosed until after the game, Michigan didn’t wait long to implement the new plan. The practice is in line with NFL teams, which have an official in the booth to better handle head injuries.
The plan, as Brandon first described in an interview with the Daily on Thursday, was to wire in medical personnel on the sideline with each other and someone in the booth to review plays from above. But not every trainer had a wire in his ear during the game.
Of those who extensively attended to Clark, only one wore an ear piece. Navitskis, who has spent five years with the Wolverines, patrolled the sideline, but never spent more than two minutes at a time with Clark.
However, trainers took Clark’s helmet away from him after discussion, putting it in a new location on the sideline. But that doesn’t mean the protocol seemed any better, let alone noticeable, to players and coaches on the sidelines.
“I think you’ll see that, the effects of that when maybe there is some sort of head trauma or something as much as anything else,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “I don’t — I’m involved with the game, coaching. I’ve never made medical decisions, so I’m sure it worked OK.”
Added redshirt junior running back Justice Hayes: “It was the same; same stuff. (Leaving Shane on the field) was just a miscommunication, but we should be all right.”
Saturday’s game, which saw redshirt sophomore Willie Henry come out to have his hand examined, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jehu Chesson exit with a leg injury and sophomore running back Derrick Green break his clavicle, was as good a barometer as any to measure how the new policy played out.
Each athlete came to the sideline after being injured, unlike last weekend’s game. Only Henry reentered, getting clearance from a trainer before rushing to Hoke’s side in the third quarter.
“I think that whole situation was a big misunderstanding, and we didn’t really have anything come up like that this game to really talk about,” said sophomore tight end Jake Butt. “But I know they put in a plan and we’re going to get it corrected. We’re going to get the best of the best and get it figured out.”
According to Butt, players said the new policy was something “talked about as a team,” but didn’t elaborate on any more discussion of it.
Perhaps the most noticeable response to an injury wasn’t with Michigan, but with the Scarlet Knights. Late in the first quarter, Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo snapped back as he was hit by junior safety Jarrod Wilson.
Trainers sprinted out to Carroo moments after he hit the ground and escorted him off the field and into the tunnel before the next play was run. He later entered after he was presumably cleared.
And trainers’ presence on the field may soon return to be unnoticed, but Michigan’s handling of Morris’s concussion may have teams paying more attention.