KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith appeared on a podcast and told a story about how he continued to play after suffering a concussion during his time with the San Francisco 49ers.
The discussion around concussions has risen to the national stage after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a gruesome head injury against the Cincinnati Bengals, just four days after taking a big hit and showing symptoms of a concussion against the Buffalo Bills.
On Nov. 11, 2012, Smith took a hit to the back of the head from St. Louis Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar that he says caused a concussion, but he continued to play.
“Popped right back up, acted like nothing happened and continued to play. Hiding symptoms at this point, trying to assess internally if I’m alright, if I can play through this and continue to kinda roll,” Smith told Pablo Torre on ESPN Daily.
Smith said he felt good enough to play until the offense called for a quarterback sneak.
“I think we converted it,” Smith said. “I go down and hit the ground kinda diving and boom! Instantly, what I would call, a star in my vision. Trouble seeing, it was a day game, really bright, it was a beautiful day at Candlestick Park. [I] got this big kinda bright star in my vision and I’m having trouble seeing.”
Smith said he was never knocked out and remembers everything from the game, even the ensuing touchdown he threw while still having trouble seeing.
“We’re driving down the field and they blitz me. Thank God they blitzed,” Smith said. “They sent the house, I throw this little dump pass to [WR Michael] Crabtree on a hot route and he scores a touchdown.”
Following the play, Smith went back to the sideline and sat on the bench with then-backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick and instantly knew he couldn’t continue.
“I remember with Kaep sitting next to me and we’re looking at the pictures and I’m trying hard to get my eyes to clear up and it’s not happening,” Smith said. “I remember distinctly talking to him like, ‘Man, something’s not right.'”
Smith would enter the concussion protocol, which was implemented one year earlier in 2011.
Those same protocols have come under the microscope of fans and players league-wide after the incident with Tagovailoa.
The NFLPA began an investigation into the incident, which brought the firing of an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant that cleared Tagovailoa to return against Buffalo.