Steelers QB Mason Rudolph says he doesn’t remember play that knocked him out
Mason Rudolph remembers — if only “faintly”— being assisted to the sideline by teammates. He remembers receiving attention from Pittsburgh Steelers medical personnel in the locker room and being whisked away to a hospital for observation.
Rudolph remembers most aspects of the concussion that knocked him from the third quarter of the Steelers’ Oct. 6 against the Baltimore Ravens.
The play that knocked him out temporarily and left him woozy for several moments just isn’t one of them.
“I did not remember the play at all,” Rudolph said Monday, the first time he was permitted — per NFL rules — to speak publicly about his concussion. “Everything before the play and after the play was weird. I had to go back and ask the coach, ‘What was the play called’ because for some reason, just that play was kind of blank. But everything before and after was clear as day.”
Although he doesn’t recall taking the shot from safety Earl Thomas’ helmet to his chin, Rudolph said he was aware of the pressure he was facing in the pocket as he prepared to unleash a pass to James Washington that went for a 26-yard completion.
While Thomas approached Rudolph from the front, defensive end Brandon Carr was closing in from behind.
“I felt like I was going to get hit right after,” Rudolph said. “I didn’t think it would be any different than any other hit I take in the pocket. And so just a freak thing. I did see both of those guys, kind of feel them closing in.”
Rudolph said he received an apology from Thomas, who was flagged for roughing the passer and fined $21,000 by the NFL. Rudolph relayed his sentiments to Ravens running back Justice Hill, his college teammate at Oklahoma State.
“I appreciate him reaching out,” Rudolph said. “A classy thing.”
The medical cart sent to potentially remove Rudolph famously stalled and had to be pushed off the field. Rudolph said it wasn’t needed.
“I passed the tests on the ground, so I was able to walk off,” he said. “Of course, I wanted to (walk). I wouldn’t have wanted to take a ride if I didn’t have to.”
The concussion symptoms subsided the next day, and Rudolph steadily progressed through the NFL’s five-step concussion protocol.
“I never had any real symptoms like sensitivity to light,” he said. “I’ve only had one concussion prior to, in high school. I started feeling pretty good the next day and carried out all the testing physically and the mental stuff on the computer.”
Rudolph spent that week working as the scout-team quarterback while the Steelers prepared to start backup Devlin Hodges against the Los Angeles Chargers. Rudolph traveled with the team to the West Coast. As much as Rudolph wanted to play in the game and felt capable from a physical standpoint, he realized doctors made the correct decision.
“The thought process from the specialist was, if you take a lesser hit, you could be out longer,” Rudolph said. “You could do damage. I was more vulnerable at that point was the opinion of the specialist, so I didn’t really have a choice. I didn’t really want to, but I think if I look back at this 10 years down the road, I’ll be glad that I did sit out for a week. But I was not happy in the moment.”
An independent neurologist didn’t clear Rudolph until last Wednesday when the Steelers were on their bye week. Rudolph resumed taking snaps with the first team Monday when the Steelers conducted a light workout at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“Today was his show, which was good,” guard Ramon Foster said. “He looked like the old Mason, but he’s got to be a new guy every week and play up to it. I’m looking forward to seeing him out there.”
The Steelers have two additional practices this week because they don’t play until Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. It will Rudolph’s fourth career start.
“I know it killed him not to be out there,” defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said. “He had a good practice underneath him and can go from there. He has a long week, and, hopefully, he continues to get better. The more time he gets before the game is only going to help.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .