Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Nick Foles is starting in place of Alex Smith on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite the team saying Smith does not have a concussion.
Smith left the Chiefs' win over the Colts on Sunday twice after sustaining hard hits to the head. His first exit came after a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first quarter, but Smith returned to the game after clearing concussion protocol. He was pulled from the game a second time after hitting his head on the turf. He did not return after being diagnosed with a concussion.
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On Monday, Smith was cleared to play and the team announced he had not actually sustained a concussion.
However, on Wednesday Chiefs head coach Andy Reid announced that Foles would start instead of Smith in Week 9. Reid said it was in Smith's “best interest” to keep him in return to participation protocol despite his remaining concussion symptom free, and that he would not be available as a backup to Foles. Tyler Bray will serve as backup.
The NFL's return-to-participation policy applies to players who are returning after sustaining a concussion and establishes four steps the player must pass before being fully cleared for football activities.
Smith has had two concussions in his football career, and when asked during Wednesday's press conference if he felt like he currently had one he said, “Nope.”
Smith, who is also waiting for a cut on his ear to heal, said he wasn't sure what to call his injury but that he, the coaches and doctors came to the decision for him to sit out together.
“I think every football player takes pride in being accountable, being tough, being able to play through things, but there’s a fine line there,” Smith said. “What if it’s one of these weeks where then all of a sudden we’re splitting reps, and you wait and see on all these symptoms —that’s kind of the protocol, you practice, you wait and see on the symptoms, and eventually you gotta have contact and then you wait and see—so it’s one of these things that drags out until Friday or Saturday, are you doing the team a favor? Are you doing Nick a favor? The QB room? I think this decision was clean.”
Smith has completed 66.1% of his passes for 1,638 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions through seven games this season.
The Chiefs are in second place in the AFC West with a 5–2 record while the Jaguars are in the basement of the AFC South at 2–5.