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McCoy's concussion prompts NFL changes

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy still hasn't shaken symptoms from a concussion sustained nearly two weeks ago, one that has reformed the NFL's game-day procedures on head injuries.

McCoy was not cleared to practice again on Wednesday, keeping him sidelined since he was illegally blasted in the face mask by Pittsburgh's James Harrison on Dec. 8. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said McCoy was evaluated by team doctors and did "a little physical activity" as he continues to recover.

McCoy has not been seen at the team's training facility this week. The second-year QB, who has displayed immense toughness while being roughed up all season, will miss his second straight game Saturday at Baltimore. Backup Seneca Wallace will start against the Ravens, although Shurmur has not made that announcement official.

Wallace doesn't know Cleveland's plans beyond this week.

"I just get ready," he said. "Colt started the season, he should finish the season as the starter if he's healthy. All the other stuff will take care of itself."

The Browns are being extra careful in their treatment of McCoy. It was their failure to check him for a concussion on the field or sideline at Heinz Field that prompted the league to institute a policy of having an independent certified trainer, paid by the NFL, in the press box at games to monitor for head injuries and help identify players who need to be tested.

The league said the trainer will not diagnose or prescribe treatment and can't order players be removed from a game. The trainer will be in a booth upstairs with access to video replay and direct communication to the medical staffs of both teams.

Also, the league will allow medical personnel to use their cell phones during games to get information to help any injured player, not just those with head injuries. In a statement announcing the changes, the league stressed the importance of communication between coaching and medical staffs and urged that "concussions continue to be managed in a conservative and medically appropriate way."

McCoy wasn't tested for a concussion until after the loss to the Steelers, and was sent back into the game after missing just two plays. The Browns said McCoy wasn't showing symptoms of a concussion so they didn't test him. Also, team doctors were treating other players and didn't see the impact from Harrison's vicious hit, which earned the Steelers' linebacker a one-game suspension he served in Pittsburgh's loss to San Francisco on Monday.

Harrison returned to practice on Wednesday and delivered another shot on the Browns. He believes they should be disciplined for their handling of McCoy.

"If he was hurt so bad I don't know why they let him back in the next two plays later," Harrison said. "Something should be done to them I would think. I got a game, what should they get?"

League spokesman Greg Aiello said the Browns will not be penalized for their handling of McCoy's injury.

The Steelers will finish the regular season at Cleveland on Jan. 1.

Shurmur was vague when he was asked if McCoy had visited any specialists on head trauma. Tight end Benjamin Watson sought outside medical advice last week after suffering his third concussion since July. The Browns, who have had eight players sustain concussions, placed him on injured reserve Friday.

"You can't say he hasn't seen one," Shurmur said. "He's been evaluated just like Ben, by all the proper people. They're all doctors. No real difference."

Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas believes adding a trainer as an observer is a good thing.

"Anything they can do to protect player safety is always a positive," Thomas said. "Is it perfect? I don't know. Maybe. Is it better than nothing? I think so."

The league's medical staff and Players Association had input into the changes following their meeting with the Browns last week to discuss McCoy's post-injury treatment. Commissioner Roger Goodell took part in the talks via teleconference as did Browns president Mike Holmgren.

Notes: The Browns are battered as they near the finish line of another losing season. Starting CB Joe Haden (thigh) and WRs Mohamed Massaquoi (foot) and Jordan Norwood (head) missed practice Wednesday. Also out were DL Scott Paxson (hand; calf), LB Ben Jacobs (head) and S T.J. Ward (foot) sat out. Ward has missed six straight games and is unlikely to play next week. .... Shurmur said there's a good chance rookie DB Buster Skrine will return kickoffs this week in place of WR Josh Cribbs, who was limited in practice by a groin injury. Skrine returned one kick 32 yards last week. ... Shurmur expects newly signed TE Dan Gronkowski to play this week. The Browns are short on run blockers following the loss of Watson and Alex Smith. "We're teaching him the game plan, not the system," Shurmur said.