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Chuck Landon: Injured MU players wear shades for a serious issue

Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:11 AM

The sight was rather disconcerting, to say the least.

Imagine the reaction to seeing a pair of Marshall University football players on the field during a preseason practice wearing full pads, except for helmets, but also wearing another accessory.

Sunglasses.

That's right, sunglasses.

Shades of the apocalypse are upon us, I thought.

Yes, I concede I'm old-school. The first college football game I ever attended was at old Fairfield Stadium to watch Mickey Jackson, Andy Socha, Jim Cure, Howie Miller and, yes, Bobby Pruett play for Marshall.

So, yes, I was aghast at witnessing transfer defensive end Ricardo Williams and true freshman cornerback Tiquan Lang wearing sunglasses during recent practices at Edwards Stadium.

There should be a ban on Ray-Bans, I thundered.

But when offensive lineman Cam Dees showed up also wearing sunglasses, it stopped me dead in my old-school rhetoric. Dees isn't a too-cool-for-school, sunglasses-wearin' type of guy.

That's when it hit me.

Those players have concussions.

After muttering, "Duh, Chuck," I smacked myself in the forehead with the palm of my hand so hard I might have given myself a concussion.

"Did you really think I'd let players wear sunglasses on the field?" asked Marshall head coach Doc Holliday with a grin.

Uh, no.

If anything, Doc is more old-school than me. That's what had me so perplexed. But, now, it makes sense. Particularly since concussions are such a hot-button topic these days at all levels of football.

That serious fact of football life has hit home here during Marshall's preseason camp as four players were sidelined with concussions during the first two weeks of practices. Besides Dees, Lang and Williams, linebacker Billy Mitchell has missed most of camp.

In fact, since Mitchell is a repeat casualty of concussions, there are rumors that the senior might call it a career.

Who could blame him?

Some of the studies and resulting conclusions are downright frightening.

"It can't be taken lightly," said Holliday. "Concussions are really a hot topic in football and we're very conscious of that. I remember back when I was playing (as a linebacker at West Virginia University), we called it 'getting dinged.'

"You were back out there practicing the next day. Nobody missed practice because you got dinged. You just played through it."

Some of those guys have trouble remembering their own names these days. Fortunately, Doc isn't one of them. But a former high school opponent by the name of Mike Hamrick remembers when Herbert Hoover's Robin Lyons, a 240-pound running back, ran over a Hurricane linebacker named Holliday and knocked him unconscious.

Despite that anecdote, concussions are a very serious issue.

"As coaches, we don't decide when a player who has a concussion comes back," pointed out Holliday. "That is up to the trainers. There are a series of tests a player has to pass before he can come back now."

That explains why Dees and Lang still were wearing sunglasses at a recent practice, but Williams wasn't.

"Williams is closer to coming back," said Holliday.

So, that explains the players wearing sunglasses during practices issue. There's nothing fun or cool about it. It's serious business.

Unlike when I wear sunglasses on the field.

To protect a concussion?

No, an identity.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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