Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Brandon Ghee has been willing for weeks, but it wasn’t until Wednesday before doctors said he was able to return to work.
After suffering concussions in back-to-back preseason games in August, Ghee is finding out how frustrating life can be in today’s new-world NFL with all of its protocols, precautions and patience that accompany a head injury.
“I probably would have come back about three weeks ago for the beginning of the season if it wasn’t for the concussion lawsuits and everything going on,” Ghee said. “It’s good for the player, but it’s frustrating because you want to get back out there.”
Last month the NFL reached a tentative $765 million settlement in regard to concussion-related brain injuries among more than 18,000 retired players. And even though the agreement includes no admission of liability by the NFL, the league remains committed to improving player safety.
So for the last month Ghee had to wait, and the doctors had to watch.
“It’s the type of thing where I may just wipe my head and they may think I’m symptomatic,” Ghee said. “It’s the type of thing they are watching everything. The new lawsuit and stuff, they are watching everything post-concussion. I had two in the preseason. If I get a third one, it’s pretty much over. So they made sure I came back healthy.”
Injuries are nothing new for the Wake Forest product. He suffered a concussion in the preseason in 2010 and missed the first two games, then a December groin injury landed Ghee on season-ending injured reserve. Last year a wrist injury in training camp cost him the entire season.
He bounced back from the concussion Aug. 8 in the preseason opener against Atlanta and was cleared to play Aug. 17 against Tennessee. But a second shot to the head in nine days was cause for alarm.
“After the first one I just came back and didn’t care, but after the second one you have to think about your kids and your family,” he said. “You don’t want any long-lasting issues. My family wants me to stay healthy, and the doctors want to make sure I am completely honest and not having headaches, etc. It’s over now, and I am out there playing.”
And just in time.
With cornerbacks Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick and safety Reggie Nelson missing practice Wednesday and Thursday with hamstring injuries, the Bengals need help in the secondary. They re-signed Chris Crocker off the street Wednesday, and both he and Ghee are expected to see action Sunday in Cleveland.
“Especially with guys going down, it’s defintiely good to see him on the field to get some reps,” defensive backs coach Mark Carrier said of Ghee. “He hasn’t played since August, so he has to go through things.”
Ghee, who has played in 13 games in his four-year NFL career, is likely to get his first career start if Hall is unable to go.
“Honestly, I think Leon is one of the best technicians in the league, one of the top five corners in the league,” Ghee said. “I hope they throw me in the slot. More opportunity means more plays. I’m not the type of person to be all nervous and stuff. I like the pressure. I’m just glad I’ve got the opportunity and now I’m healthy.”