Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant is currently stuck in the concussion protocol. Because of its long-term and short-term consequences, it’s an undesirable place for any professional football player to find himself. An updated injury report will come out on Wednesday, but I won’t be surprised if Trufant doesn’t participate in practice this week and misses Sunday’s game.
Trufant’s injury was unfortunately caused by his own teammate: Keanu Neal. If you missed the game or didn’t catch the highlights, here’s how it happened: Trufant was in the process of tackling DeSean Jackson when Neal came flying in, making helmet to helmet contact with his own teammate. It was obvious right away that Trufant was shook up and he immediately hobbled to the sideline. By halftime they’d put him in the concussion protocol.
Right after Trufant was injured, Twitter went nuts. Falcons fans were quick to attack Neal, lamenting his reckless playing style and just generally throwing him under the bus. The frustration is, on some level, understandable, however misguided it may be. “Wait a second, James! Them is fighting words!” Hear me out, please. Did Neal make a mistake? Yes. Is it a mistake any player could’ve made and a mistake other players frequently make? You bet. This is football. Stuff happens.
The notion that Neal can somehow slow down his playing style or get his playing style under control is illogical on its face. Neal’s bread and butter is his aggressive play. That’s why the Falcons drafted him and that’s how his teammates and the coaches expect him to play. It doesn’t matter how you as a casual observer expect him to play.
Go ahead and ask Trufant if he wants Neal to pump the breaks going forward. I’ll bet he doesn’t. Ask head coach Dan Quinn the same question; you’ll get the same response. The next time you feel like throwing one of the most talented young defensive players in the league under the bus, remember that the game isn’t played like we see it. Guys like Neal don’t have the benefit of slow motion replays.