Mason Rudolph returns to Steelers facility, remains in concussion protocol
Mason Rudolph strolled leisurely through the locker room Monday afternoon at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex and talked casually with his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Rudolph was prone on the Heinz Field grass, the victim of vicious shot to the chin by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas’ helmet. After several moments, Rudolph was helped to his feet and walked off the field with assistance from teammates.
Rudolph was diagnosed with a concussion and taken to a hospital for observation.
The sight of Rudolph in the locker room on a day the Steelers conduct film study and team meetings was encouraging to teammates.
“I shot him a text last night, and he replied,” defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said. “To see him in person and see him doing a lot better than yesterday is a good sign.”
Rudolph was not available for interviews because he remains in the NFL concussion protocol program.
Before Rudolph is cleared to return to the field, he must pass a five-step process that the NFL and its players’ association jointly approved. After progressing through the five steps and gaining clearance from team medical personnel, the player must be cleared by an independent neurological consultant, who is not affiliated with any NFL team and is jointly approved by the league and the union.
The five steps are as follows:
1. Rest and recovery: A player must rest until his cognitive and balance tests return to baseline status. A player can do no physical activity beyond stretching and balance work.
2. Light aerobic exercise: Activities include riding a stationary bike and light running on a treadmill. Players are permitted to attend team meetings and study film in this step.
3. Continued aerobic exercises and introduction of strength training: The player may do supervised cardiovascular activities and can include strength training and weightlifting.
4. Football specific activities: The player can take part in non-contact drills, which includes throwing, catching and running and other positional activities.
5. Full football activity and clearance: The player can resume practicing without limitations. He must be cleared by a team physician and the independent neurological consultant before the player is permitted to play in a game.
Until Rudolph gains clearance, undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges will be elevated to the starting role. Hodges replaced Rudolph midway through the third quarter and completed 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards. He also had a 20-yard scramble.
The 1-4 Steelers play the 2-3 Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.
“I don’t know what (Mason’s) status is going to be going forward,” Heyward said, “but I have confidence in (Hodges).”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .