When Chargers head coach Brandon Staley met with reporters just before noon Wednesday, he offered injury updates on five players.
Keenan Allen, Corey Linsley, Donald Parham Jr., Joshua Kelley and Dustin Hopkins all were mentioned as Staley consulted a list he carried into his regularly scheduled news conference.
About three hours later, the team’s injury report included Joshua Palmer, who, the Chargers announced, did not practice because of a concussion.
So, what happened during the time gap that — seemingly out of nowhere — sidelined Palmer with something so significant?
He began to exhibit symptoms of a head injury, general manager Tom Telesco explained, nearly 48 hours after suffering the injury.
On Friday, Staley said he was surprised when he discovered Palmer had symptoms, particularly after Palmer was cleared during the Chargers’ game Monday and ended up playing 81 snaps that night.
“When I say surprised, you’re learning all the time about how this can happen,” Staley said. “This isn’t the only time this has happened or someone would express more symptoms after the ballgame.”
This is not Palmer’s first experience with a concussion this year. He also was placed in the NFL’s protocol after the Chargers’ second preseason game, in mid-August.
Under the league’s concussion guidelines, any player who is evaluated during a game is evaluated again 24 hours later, even if the player is initially cleared, Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s Chief Medical Officer, said during a news conference this month.
The follow-up exams are meant to catch situations similar to the one Palmer is now experiencing.
While addressing reporters two weeks ago, Sills explained “a phenomenon or a principle of concussion of delayed presentation.” He said he has seen patients go as long as four days before feeling symptoms.
“Sometimes, concussion symptoms do not reveal themselves at the time of injury or in the time of that same contest,” Sills said. “So, you have to make sure you continue with assessments.”
The Chargers had a similar situation in 2017 with quarterback Philip Rivers, who self-reported symptoms a day after playing all 69 offensive snaps in a game at Jacksonville.
During that afternoon, Rivers absorbed two obvious shots that could have led to a head injury — one in the first quarter and one in overtime. He cleared the league’s concussion protocol that next week and did not miss a game.
Palmer was injured Monday against Denver on the opening play from scrimmage. He fell backward and hit his head on the SoFi Stadium turf while tangling with the Broncos’ Damarri Mathis.
Palmer grabbed his head with both hands immediately after the play, the result of which was a pass interference penalty on the Denver cornerback.
On the next snap, while blocking on a running play, Palmer collided with Broncos safety Kareem Jackson and then was hit by defensive lineman D.J. Jones. Palmer grabbed his head again, this time only briefly.
He was then removed from the game and evaluated in the medical tent on the Chargers’ sideline.
Palmer missed the rest of the series but was cleared by one of the NFL’s unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants and a Chargers team doctor, Telesco said. Palmer returned to the field the next time his team had the ball.
He finished with 12 targets and nine receptions, both career highs for the second-year receiver. The 81 snaps also marked the most Palmer has played in an NFL game.
As of Friday afternoon, Palmer remained in concussion protocol, the Chargers announcing he will not play in their next game, Sunday against Seattle.
Staley called the subject of concussions one of “utmost importance” for a league that recently dealt with a high-profile case involving Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
In the aftermath of that situation, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed to updated protocols aimed at better protecting players.
“I think all the clubs in the league are trying to do everything they can,” Staley said. “You just know that in this sport, and sports like it, it’s tough. It’s tough to be perfect. All you can try to do is be intentional with your process to get it right …
“That’s all we can do as a league, do everything we can for these players and their families to know that we’re thinking about them. I know that that’s where I stand, we stand as a club. That’s what we’re going to keep trying to do.”
The Chargers on Monday also lost Parham, their backup tight end, for Sunday’s game due to a concussion, his second in 10 months.
He was first concussed in December in a game against Kansas City and had to leave the SoFi Stadium field on a stretcher.
Parham missed the rest of the 2021 season and then, after suffering a hamstring injury in training camp, the first four weeks this year. The game against Denver was his second since returning.
The Chargers did not rule out Allen for Sunday, Staley calling the wide receiver’s availability “more of a game-time decision.” Allen has been out since the second quarter of the season opener because of a hamstring injury. Officially listed as questionable, Allen said Friday he hopes to play against the Seahawks. “We won’t put him out there unless we know that he can go,” Staley said. “How much he goes … it’s his first game back. So there’ll be some type of pitch count … if he goes. If there’s any apprehension, then he won’t go.” … Rookie running back Isaiah Spiller will be active Sunday, replacing Kelley (knee), Staley said. … The other Chargers who will play are center Corey Linsley (food poisoning), right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee) and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (ankle).