Three days after taking a vicious shot to the head that left him concussed, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was on the practice field with his teammates.
Devlin Hodges took the first-team reps Wednesday as the Steelers began on-field preparations for their game Sunday night at the Los Angeles Chargers, but Rudolph took snaps with the scout team and was listed as a limited participant on the injury report.
By returning to practice, Rudolph has reached the fifth and final stage of the NFL’s concussion protocol process. He won’t be cleared to play in a game likely until Saturday after the team’s walkthrough before the Steelers travel to Los Angeles.
Still, the sight of their de-facto starter being on the field Wednesday was encouraging to teammates.
“I think everyone was concerned with him being out there so early, but obviously it’s a positive,” guard David DeCastro said. “They did all of the tests and protocols needed to get him out there and make sure he’s OK. It’s a good sign.”
Rudolph became the starter after Ben Roethlisberger was lost to a season-ending elbow injury at halftime of the home opener against Seattle. He played the second half of that game and made his third start Sunday versus the Baltimore Ravens.
Rudolph was knocked out when Ravens safety Earl Thomas’ helmet connected with the quarterback’s chin midway through the third quarter Sunday. Rudolph remained on the ground for several moments before he was assisted off the field by teammates and medical personnel. He was taken to a hospital for observation but was discharged Sunday night, and he was at the team’s practice facility Monday when the team conducted film study and meetings.
“It was incredible,” linebacker T.J. Watt said of Rudolph’s return to practice. “It was scary. To go through that once with Ryan (Shazier) and see a guy down like that is very scary and a lot of things flash through your mind.
“We have a great medical staff here to make sure he goes through the proper channels and checks off every box and makes sure he’s ready to go before they put him out there.”