NEW YORK -- The NFL is attacking the concussion issue on a team-by-team basis.
At the owners meetings in New York on Tuesday, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, said the league identified seven teams in 2017 that had a higher incidence of preseason concussions than the others and "did a targeted intervention with those clubs." Sills said that process involved wide-ranging discussions with the football operations staffs of the teams that involved the design of practice drills and which helmets players were wearing.
"In six of those seven clubs, the numbers did go down," Sills said. "Those seven clubs had 23 practice concussions as a whole in 2017, down to nine in 2018."
Overall, the league said, preseason concussions were down from 91 in 2017 to 79 this year, and that there were zero on kickoff plays. The NFL modified its kickoff rules this year to make the play safer, as it traditionally has featured a significantly higher rate of concussions than other plays.
"We are cautiously optimistic about that result," Sills said of the preseason concussion numbers. "We are pleased to see that number go down, but we still have a lot of work to do. We are continuing a more in-depth analysis of the concussions that did happen during the preseason. Doing some of the same work we've been doing during the regular season, looking at video and seeing what the practice environment is -- seeing who was injured in what role. We are going to be doing more of a deep dive into that."
Sills and Jeff Miller, the NFL's vice president of player health and safety, said the league is also pleased about the results of its helmet rating system and is seeing more players change helmets to those the league rates as safest. The league handed out a flyer in the preseason ranking helmets on a green-to-red scale it developed in conjunction with the NFLPA, with green being good and red being bad.
Helmets that fall into the red category are being prohibited starting this year for new players and next year for players who were already in the league, giving them a "grandfather" year to find a helmet that works for them and still falls into the approved category.
Miller said the number of players wearing red-rated helmets was down from 230 last year to 40 as of Week 3 of this season.