The San Francisco 49ers had a scary incident at training camp on Tuesday, as linebacker Donavin Newsom and safety Chanceller James collided on a play, leaving Newsom immobile on the ground. After practice, head coach Kyle Shanahan said Newsom had sensation in his extremities, and had some movement as well.
The 49ers updated the situation later in the afternoon, reporting that Newsom went to Stanford Medical Center, and doctors evaluated him and diagnosed him with “only” a concussion. I say “only” because they were checking his neck for any kind of spinal injury, and fortunately nothing came of it. The concussion is still a serious injury, and he severity of his symptoms is unknown at this time. He remains at Stanford Medical Center under observation.
Following practice, Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer met with the media. Both answered questions exclusively on Newsom’s injury.
How is the situation with LB Donavin Newsom?
“You guys saw it out there. It always puts things in perspective when you see that happen. You know, it’s scary down there any time you’ve got a guy on the ground that long. We’ve still got a lot of information we need to find out. The encouraging part that I can say his eyes were open. He did have feeling in his lower half and with his hands, so that’s the encouraging part about it. After that, he’s on his way to the hospital. That’s really all I know, and we’re praying for the best.”
What can you say to the team when a guy takes a hit like that?
“There’s not much to say. I had a lot of stuff I was planning to say about practice, and when that happens it kind of puts everything into perspective for everyone. So, you just try to end it. And everyone knows the deal, what these guys do risk in the game. You hope for the best and I think it will be alright, but you never know. You’ve got to all talk through it, and I know the guys are praying for him. We just try to get in here as fast as possible and see if we can find out the news and hope for the best.”
Did he have movement in his lower body?
“Yes, that’s what I saw. It was encouraging even talking to [primary care Dr. Anthony Saglimbeni] Dr. Nino and [vice president of medical services & head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson] Ferg after. He did have feeling and was slightly moving.”
Does it seem like it’s been a long time since you’ve seen a guy kind of go limp like that before?
“Yeah, I’ve seen it a number of times. I have not been around one that ends up being real serious, but it’s always there’s a chance of it every time. Because that is what happens. That’s why you’re hoping for the best. It’s still a big deal. We’ll have to go talk to his family and make sure we find out everything before I start speculating on anything.”
Was it the neck area that you’re looking at?
“Yes, that’s what it looked like. But, there’s lots of things you check into on that.”
Does that make you want camp to be less physical after something like that? Especially since S Chanceller James has been one of the guys flying around?
“No. That’s part of it. I don’t think that play was from being too physical. That’s getting hit at the exact spot at the right time. I think it was their own guys too from what I saw. From my view it was two defensive players colliding with each other. I don’t know that for sure, but from what I thought I saw it was that. But no, you’ve got to practice football, but you’ve got to be as smart as you can too. That’s something we work at, but no that’s not going to change how we practice.”
What do you say to a player like that, how do you console him?
“I think anybody would naturally be upset because you feel somewhat responsible. But, I think everyone knows, every player, every coach, anybody who’s watching that, it’s not that kid’s fault. We’re playing football. It’s part of the sport. Sometimes things like that happen, and you pray for the best, you hope for the best. It is part of the game. That’s why I can’t have any more respect than I do for NFL players and college players, people who played the game, because it is risky like that.”
“No, no one did. I did see his eyes open and stuff, so he wasn’t knocked out the whole time. But, he was sitting there resting, didn’t want to move. They were being very safe with it. We try our hardest to keep our space from him. I think it’s human nature for everyone to get around and get too close to him, which doesn’t help the situation. So, we try to give them our distance and try to keep him as relaxed as possible and let the people who know what they’re doing do their job.”
Do you go through a scenario like that before camp, a safety scenario with EMT’s if something bad were to happen “This is the protocol that we go through?”
“Yeah. I think every team, the doctors, and we have a process of when you call the ambulance, where it comes in, how you do it, when you’re put on the stretcher, everything. That’s why a lot of those times, you’re being safe. I’m not saying this is that time, but there’s always a protocol for how every team handles it. You always want to be as safe as possible.”
QB Brian Hoyer
What was your vantage point on that play?
“Yeah, I was far away. I heard it more than saw it. So, obviously you never want to see that happen to anybody. Unfortunately, we play a collision sport and things like that are really unpreventable. Two aggressive guys going to make a play. Like I said, I heard it more than I saw it.”
When that happens and you’re watching your teammate being put on a backboard, do you look for movement? Are you guys just looking for those telltale signs?
“The one thing that I’ve always learned is give the medical staff space. Obviously, you want to show your concern, but to get on a knee, say a little prayer and then let the professionals do what they’re there to do. So, you kind of just sit back and say a prayer for the guy and hope that everything works out. And, the medical staff, you know, they’re trained for these sorts of situations, but it’s scary. You don’t want to see anyone ever go through that.”
Obviously, this was towards the end of practice, but when that happens in a game or if that had happened earlier, how hard is it, or even tomorrow, how hard is it to come back out?
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve had that happen. Not necessarily a head or neck injury, but a guy who basically blew out his entire quad and you hear him screaming and they have to bring out the cart for him. And, same thing, you say a little prayer, you wish him good luck and then you get back to business. As cold as that sounds, the moment you start to think about, ‘Oh geeze, what if that happens to me?’ I think you put yourself in a more vulnerable position. So, you just go back out just as aggressively the next time and you play just as fast as you normally would because I think the moment you don’t that’s when you put yourself in an even worse position.”
S Chanceller James looked pretty distraught after it happened. Has anybody talked to him in the locker room?
“To be honest, I literally just walked from the field into here. Obviously, you don’t want to feel responsible, but it’s not his fault. It’s football. They’re both going for the football and it was an unfortunate event. I’m sure there’s, I guess we call it maybe survivor’s remorse or whatever, but you’ve just got to emphasize to those guys it wasn’t, it’s friendly fire. It’s not like he’s trying to go take out a receiver and knocked that guy out. He took his own guy out. It wasn’t anything that was dirty or uncalled for, it’s just two guys going and playing football. Unfortunately, in our sport things like that, they happen sometimes.”