Head Trauma Becoming a Major Concern for Shields

Four career concussions in the span of a mere few years is less than ideal for the undisputed leader of the Packers' secondary.

We'd be singing a different tune had the final moments in Jacksonville gone a bit differently. A short lapse of time that made the difference between the Packers escaping the blistering Florida heat relatively healthy, and trudging away with the fourth reported concussion in the seven-year career of Sam Shields. While it was his fourth in five years, it was also his second in less than a year, and as a result, it may be time for Shields to start contemplating his future and the state of his own well-being.

Since falling out of the 2010 NFL Draft and helping engineer a defensive powerhouse during the Packers' Super Bowl run, Shields has long set the standard for other hopeful undraftees to follow. In 2016, the Packers may just need one to help stabilize the cornerbacks unit that Shields has led for the last five years. 

Josh Hawkins crept his way onto the team's final roster after stringing together some promising performances during the preseason. Despite this, he was one of the seven inactive players on Sunday against Jacksonville. He's been evidently fending off a hamstring injury, much like Jayrone Elliott and Chris Banjo — two key special teams players with similar injuries.

Shields, meanwhile, was run through concussion protocol on Monday and there isn't any word on whether or not he'll be active against the Vikings on Sunday night.

"Anytime any of our players is in protocol and dealing with a concussion is a concern." head coach Mike McCarthy said in his habitual Monday presser. "That's why we'll evaluate Sam each and every day and most importantly make sure he's healthy."

That's enough of a reason for concern, let alone with a secondary that, based off of week one, is as thin as it is disoriented. 

My "hot take" over the last few months was that the Packers rolling with said thin secondary is a liability. All it took was a mere injury to one of the vital starters — in this case, Shields, to really put a damper on that group and their productivity. It doesn't help to note the significant struggles second-year corner Quinten Rollins faced with his assignment on Sunday. Struggles so brutal, that it eventually led to Rollins' benching for Ladarius Gunter, a second-year player whose impact has been stagnant with very few opportunities. 

While Gunter may have arguably been utilized improperly, being more of a nickel cornerback, the only reason Rollins re-entered the game was due to the concussion Shields suffered late in the fourth quarter amidst his tackle on Jaguars' running back T.J. Yeldon. A once in a blue moon bad day for Rollins, or a sophomore slump upcoming?

As it stands right now, the Packers have three healthy, active cornerbacks on the roster. Barring any changes, Damarious Randall may continue to be the one corner whose coverage on the outside is safe to place your money on. His appreciable performance against the Jaguars will be a necessity in Minnesota, where speed in the Vikings' offense is less than optimal for a battered secondary. A perfect opportunity for Hawkins, whose 4.3 speed would be more than welcomed.

Don't expect Micah Hyde to swap back to the position the Packers originally drafted him at, either. Green Bay's human Swiss Army knife has a new role at safety in the place of Morgan Burnett, who may now be utilized more often at linebacker in the defense's nickel package. More often than not alongside Joe Thomas — who is also coming off a strong outing in a broiling Jacksonville.

"Thank goodness for guys like Burnett and Hyde who are okay to play a number of different positions," admitted defensive coordinator Dom Capers on Monday, referring to plugging in a variety of different components with a star player absent. "To me, that's the advantage of moving guys around through the course of training camp. We've been through this. We have guys who are trained to play multiple positions."

More news on Shields is expected to come as the Packers' divisional showdown approaches. It's safe to say the minds of Capers and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr are hard at work on how they'll stumble forward without the 28-year old Shields if he's a no-go. 

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (13)

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mrtundra's picture

September 12, 2016 at 10:43 pm

If Shields is out for the vikings game, which looks likely due to his concussion, please don't move Hyde to CB. Last year the vikings TE, Rudolph, ate him alive. I know Hyde plays Safety more now with Burnett in LB mode and hopefully that works out for the Pack.

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Chad Lundberg's picture

September 12, 2016 at 11:18 pm

Call me a blasphemer, but I believe the whole concussion ordeal is one of the most overblown sports stories of the past decade. I still have not seen any reasonable evidence that suggests that a few concussions in the NFL indefinitely lead to mental problems. You will literally have 100,000's of concussions in your lifetime regardless of your lifestyle.

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adambrymer's picture

September 13, 2016 at 04:02 am

You must be thinking of sub-concussive hits/blows https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q2/purdue-expert-at-white-... but I have no idea where you're getting your data from. They add up and do greaten the lihelihood of nasty diseases like Parkisons, Dementia and CTE -- the worst that recently caused high-profile suicides like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.

A concussion is a momentary loss of consciousness. It's the brain temporarily shutting consciousness off due to trauma. It is never Insignificant and never good. We don't have the luxury of witnessing the damage like we do with a knee or shoulder. A Player that donates his brain upon death generally reveals that they endured CTE, a nasty degeneration of the brain caused by trauma.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 13, 2016 at 06:55 am

It's not an "indefinate", it's an increased probability. Just like smoking does not mean you'll 100% get cancer, your just a lot more likely to get it and likely at an earlier age.

I am worried for Shields, as a Packer fan I want to see him play, but as a human I don't want to see headlines about his brain in 10 years.

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zeke's picture

September 12, 2016 at 11:51 pm

"You will literally have 100,000's of concussions in your lifetime regardless of your lifestyle."

I assume you are using a different definition of concussion than what most people understand it to mean in this context? And while it might not be blasphemy, even the NFL admits that there is an "unequivocal link" between football and traumatic brain disease. The NFL's senior VP for health and safety made that statement in March.

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Turophile's picture

September 13, 2016 at 04:01 am

Quite right . Lundberg has his own definition that does not accord with the accepted definition. For guys who have had multiple concussions, the worst part is that each successive one seems to take less impact to trigger it.

After a concussion (especially if you have had a few) it can stabilise in a couple of days, but it can also take MONTHS before the nausea, dizziness and disorientation go. If you were able to speak for a while to someone who has had numerous concussions, like (for example) the old 49ers QB Steve Young, you would not be dismissing concussions like you have.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 13, 2016 at 05:22 am

I thought Quinten Rollins played well after he was 2 times beaten. There was not much passes went to his side. Several plays was good to excellent, especially last one at 0:50 left in the game, when he battled down pass to the end zone.
All Packers CB had problem with Thomas. Do not forget that Morgan get few penalties and misses on him. So, he played well. Claiming that Rollins was bust is not correct!

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DukeDivine's picture

September 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Agreed, a couple of perfect passes beat Rollins and other than that he had an atrocious attempt at a tackle on Mercedes Lewis big screen pass. Otherwise he was pretty good in coverage. Burnett's penalties hurt them a lot and I thought his performance was poor. Both need to play better this week and moving forward, especially in the open field tackling department.

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NickPerry's picture

September 13, 2016 at 05:28 am

Obviously the welfare of Shields is #1 with this latest concussion. The one he had last year he REALLY hit his head hard on the ground which I believe was frozen.

If you recall, the Packers didn't do very well in games without Shields, and that was with Hayward. When Shields is on the field the Packers play more man to man instead of the vaunted "Capers Zone" which really is like Swiss Cheese. Shields can normally match up against the best WR and Randell can more than hold his own with the #2. If you don't remember watch the games leading up to the divisional playoff game against Arizona, having Shields on the field made them better like night and day.

Get well Sam!

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Finwiz's picture

September 13, 2016 at 09:10 am

@Nick....very interesting while laying in bed last night I was thinking about how best to describe Dom Capers secondary, and more holes than a block of SWISS CHEESE came to mind. With the Packers propensity for making very pedestrian QB's look like HOF's, I'd be very worried about Sean/Sam Hill going against our secondary without Shields. The biggest drop off in the Packers defense over the last five years has been the loss of an elite player in the secondary to go along with CM3....one Charles Woodson close to his prime. Time to pull another rabbit out of the hat TT, and find another one before Clay get's old.

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mrtundra's picture

September 13, 2016 at 09:21 am

Whatever shape our secondary is in for week 2 and maybe beyond, I hope Shields is okay. I am not sure what differences Bradford will make from last week, but Minnesota's offense did not score a point in week 1 with Hill as QB.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 13, 2016 at 05:39 pm

You have to remember that the Vikings have exactly ONE NFL caliber WR on their roster: Diggs. And he's out of the slot, so Shields wouldn't be following him around anyway.

Don't forget that Bradford (if he plays) has never looked more than average as a QB over long period of time. Hill sucks.

I don't want Sam hurt - for his sake as a human, and for Green Bay. The D is better with him out there. BUT, if he has to miss a game, I'd rather it be this week than against Detroit, who actually does have decent WRs.

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Allan Murphy's picture

September 15, 2016 at 09:40 am

True!

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