After taking a huge hit on Seattle's first offensive series of the game, Percy Harvin was tested for a concussion in the locker room. However, he returned to the field triumphantly on the Seahawks' next offensive possession in their Divisional round playoff matchup with the New Orleans Saints. After returning to the field, Harvin took another hit late in the first half that ended his day. Now there are questions whether he should have ever been back in the game following the first blow.
The initial hit that forced Harvin from the field was correctly flagged for unnecessary roughness and the wide receiver was examined on the sideline. Team doctors took his helmet, Harvin went to the locker room for concussion evaluation and it seemed that his day was done.
Less than 10 minutes later, after missing only three offensive plays, Harvin was surprisingly back on the field for the next series. This prompted questions as to whether he had been fully and correctly evaluated under the league's post-concussion protocol. League rules mandate a battery of tests take place, which the NFL estimates should take between 8-12 minutes. Harvin returned to the field very quickly, even for the fast side of the league's projection.
The Seahawks receiver appeared to be fine for the better part of a quarter before taking a hit late in the first half that sent him back to the locker room to undergo more testing. It was announced at the start of the second half that Harvin would miss the remainder of the game with a concussion.
The NFL took extra steps in 2013 to update its concussion protocols to ensure injured players were not returning to the field. This included the involvement of independent doctors in an effort to protect players from themselves, as well as prevent teams from putting short-term gains over long-term health issues.
These guidelines came under scrutiny following the Wild Card round, in which two players violated the league's concussion protocol. One player returned to the field despite not being cleared and another refused to leave the sideline to undergo testing. Independent doctors did not find the teams at fault, but acknowledged problems with players who refused to take part in testing.
Any notion of Harvin returning to the field early is complicated by a recount from Richard Sherman earlier this season that romanticized the idea of playing concussed.
"The problem was that I couldn't see. The concussion blurred my vision and I played the next two quarters half-blind, but there was no way I was coming off the field with so much at stake. It paid off: Just as my head was clearing, Andy Dalton lobbed one up to rookie A.J. Green and I came down with my first career interception. The Legion of Boom was born."
There's no indication whether Harvin played hurt before leaving the field the second time, or if he was properly cleared before sustaining a similar hit -- but the in-and-out nature of the receiver's status in the first half could cause the league to look into his return on Saturday.