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Rainey 'OK' after concussion tests

| Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Steelers running back Chris Rainey is hit by the Colts' Jerraud Powers during the first quarter Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. Rainey fumbled on the play and had to be helped from the field. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

Chris Rainey repeatedly shook his head in an effort to clear the cobwebs after getting KO'd by Indianapolis cornerback Jerraud Powers in the first quarter of the Steelers' 26-24 preseason victory Sunday night.

The rookie running back grudgingly relented to tests after being diagnosed with concussion symptoms by team medical personnel. After struggling to make it to the locker room, the fifth-round pick returned late in the second quarter.

“I begged and I asked them to let me play,” Rainey said. “I passed all the concussion tests. I'm all good now. I'm back to normal.”

Rainey, though, appeared as close to normal as Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy at Heinz Field in December. McCoy took a blow to the head from linebacker James Harrison but returned to the lineup after backup Seneca Wallace took only one snap from center.

Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly criticized the Browns for their handling of McCoy, and McCoy's father chastised the Browns for exercising poor judgment. The ordeal prompted the NFL to re-evaluate procedures in dealing with concussions.

In what could be defined as the Colt McCoy Rule, a player who may have been concussed is taken immediately out of games, scrimmages and practices. Coaches and trainers are to keep players out until they are cleared by further testing.

NFL spokesmen could not be reached Monday to determine if the league is reviewing the Steelers' handling of Rainey.

The Steelers, according to coach Mike Tomlin, reinserted Rainey because, in the team physician's opinions, his symptoms weren't cause for alarm.

“I didn't examine (him),” Tomlin said. “I just go with the doctors. They said he was fine to come back, so we played him.”

Still, Rainey said he took a heavy enough shot that he was momentarily unconscious.

“I woke up, and I'm still here,” said Rainey, who rushed six times for 20 yards and returned kickoffs. “I thought he dove at my head, and I thought there was a penalty.”

Rainey may have been cleared to play, but he was hardly effective. He admitted he struggled to keep his feet under him.

“The hit was one of those ‘Welcome to the National Football League' hits,” Rainey said. “I kept slipping on cuts, and I dropped a couple of passes. I didn't like it. I'm taking all the opportunities I can, and sometimes you've got to deal with getting hit.”

Tomlin emphasized that after the game.

“Everybody needs to feel the urgency of now in this business,” he said. “Particularly in a training camp-type setting, you work with a lot of young people, and there are a lot of guys who don't understand that.”

In an effort to reduce concussions, Goodell sent teams a memo stating a player who suffers a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain symptoms –- including an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness and persistent headaches.

Rainey insisted afterward that he was fine and had no problem remembering plays.

While Rainey continued to play, the Colts sidelined receiver Austin Collie after he was diagnosed with concussion symptoms. The Colts were cautious with Collie, in part, because he missed much of last season with a head injury.

It was confirmed Monday that Collie did, in fact, sustain a concussion.

In 2007, NFL rules stated a player should not be allowed to return to the same game if he lost consciousness. Under those guidelines, Rainey would have been benched and forced to have further tests before returning to practice Tuesday as the Steelers prepare to play at Buffalo on Saturday.

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923

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