|Lions RB Jahvid Best suffered a concussion in Week 6 of the 2011 season and hasn't played since. (US Presswire)|
When Lions running back Jahvid Best suffered a concussion in Week 6 of the 2011 season, he had no idea that his injury would sideline him for almost a full calendar year, and place him at the center of the NFL's new initiative to improve player safety and quality of life.
As he prepares to finish his stint on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, Best admitted Thursday that his case may be the best example of the extreme caution teams now use when evaluating brain injuries.
“The situation I'm in with the way that concussions are being taken right now, it's taking a long time [to be cleared for contact],” he said. “I guess I'm just kind of the poster boy for [the new concussion protocols], and I have to take it how it is.”
“How it is” for Best involved being subjected to another series of concussion tests -- he hasn't passed a contact test since his injury -- at the Lions' practice facility Monday. He said the tests were so complex that the results won't be known until sometime Friday.
“It took hours,” he said. “It felt like I was taking the SAT.”
Best's comparisons of his concussion testing to the college admissions exam are fitting, given that the results of the examination could have a profound impact on the rest of his life. It's also worth noting that, like The College Board's administration of the SAT, his fate rests in the hands of a completely independent panel of examiners.
Following the NFL's crackdown on concussion safety, the decision to clear Best for contact was turned over to a team of experts from around the country that are not affiliated with the Lions' organization. Coach Jim Schwartz has described the panel as some of the best in the world in the study of concussions, and said the Lions can only wait for their determination in Best's case.
For his part, Best said he's been symptom free for months, and is simply waiting for medical clearance. He said the year-long layoff hasn't caused him to question his future as an NFL player, and that he has no intentions of retiring because of his injury.
If Best is cleared for contact, he will be eligible to return to practice Monday. The Lions can also take up to three weeks following the expiration of the PUP period to medically evaluate his progress. If and when Best returns to practice, Detroit will have up to three weeks to gauge his readiness for game action before they are required to decide on his status.
Best's year-long absence from football activities hasn't affected his involvement with the team's non-contact activities, and both Lions' coaches and his teammates have praised his dedication to training and team meetings. Best confirmed that his sole athletic focus has been on maintaining his fitness in advance of a possible return. Schwartz said Best has made the most of his off-field opportunities.
“[Best is] in better shape now than when he was a rookie,” he said. “He's physically stronger. He's smarter in our schemes, done a really good job being at meetings and those kinds of things. He's more flexible than he's been. He's worked extremely hard. This isn't a guy that's been on vacation.”
Best said he's hoping to be on the sidelines when Detroit faces Chicago on Monday Night Football in Week 7. After a year of fielding questions that have more to do with brain injuries than blocking schemes, he said he'll be relieved if the next questions he faces from media are focused strictly on football.
“[Fielding football-related questions] will be a good day,” he said. “Hopefully, that will be Monday night [in Week 7] after the game.”
Follow Lions reporter John Kreger on Twitter at @CBSLions and @JohnKreger