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Bucs: Cameron Brate complained of shoulder pain before reporting concussion symptoms

The tight end remained on the field and was targeted three times after a violent collision with teammate Chris Godwin.
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate (84) runs onto the field for pregame warmups before Sunday's game against the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate (84) runs onto the field for pregame warmups before Sunday's game against the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 3|Updated Oct. 3

TAMPA — Bucs tight end Cameron Brate initially complained of shoulder pain and was checked three times by team doctors before going back into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, head coach Todd Bowles said Monday.

Brate, who was targeted three more times, wasn’t ruled out and placed under the NFL’s concussion protocol until symptoms of a head injury became present at halftime, Bowles said.

“He went on the sideline. He complained of shoulder discomfort, nothing about his head,” Bowles said. “He was checked out three times. He said just give him a minute. Nothing came up. He went back in until the end of the half.

“At halftime, he started having symptoms, but they were delayed. He started complaining about that. They tested him, and he was in the protocol and we kept him out the rest of the game.”

Bowles said the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant never called for Brate to be evaluated for a concussion.

“Nobody called down,” Bowles said. ”He was checked out three times, and he went back in until the end of the half. The concussion thing didn’t come up until halftime. He had delayed symptoms.”

The NFL and NFL Players Association did not immediately respond to emails sent Monday by the Tampa Bay Times asking if they plan to investigate whether protocols were followed correctly by the team and the independent neurologist with respect to Brate’s head injury.

Brate, 31, sustained the injury after colliding with teammate Chris Godwin following a 9-yard reception with 1:32 remaining in the second quarter. He remained on the turf for five seconds before running to the sideline.

Cade Otton replaced Brate and, with the clock running, the Bucs snapped the football 17 seconds after the collision. But Brate still had not made it to the sideline and Tampa Bay was penalized five yards for having 12 men on the field.

Bowles called it a “substitution error,” even though Brate was supposed to come out of the game and the Bucs had 11 players set when Brady took the center snap.

“We discussed it on the sideline,” Bowles said. “It had nothing to do with him being hurt.”

Former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, who was working on the sideline as part of NBC’s “Football Night in America” broadcast team, tweeted that it was immediately “obvious” to him that Brate had suffered a head injury.

“Broken system,” Dungy tweeted. “I was on the sideline very close to Brate ― obvious he had his bell rung. There’s a league appointed spotter in the press box who should stop play & alert the referee. Brate shouldn’t have been allowed to return until after an evaluation. Why didn’t that happen???”

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Even before Brate’s injury, the NFL’s handing of concussions had been a big topic of conversation for weeks.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was cleared to return to a game Sept. 25 against the Bills after he hit his head and stumbled after getting up, blaming it on a back injury. Then on Thursday night, Tagovailoa suffered a frightening concussion after being tossed to the turf in Cincinnati.

In Brate’s case, Bowles said team doctors had no reason to believe he had suffered a concussion before he returned to the game.

“It came up at halftime where he started saying he had symptoms about his head,” Bowles said. “When you say your shoulder is hurting, you need a second for your shoulder, nobody is really checking out his head. Then when you go back in and you find out at halftime that you have symptoms in your head, then you go into concussion protocol. That’s all you can do, really.

“It’s always important for players to speak up. It’s important for us to see it as well. Obviously, if we see a hard hit to somebody upside the head, you want to take a look at it. Some things you don’t see, if it’s anywhere around this area (he pointed to the shoulders and above), they may have a delayed reaction with a knee-jerk thing.

“So, player safety is important to us in the this league,” Bowles continued. “We’re not trying to play anybody that’s hurt.”

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