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Head Athletic Trainer Rick Burkholder

Posted Nov 30, 2012

Opening Remarks: "I'll start with (RB) LeSean (McCoy). With LeSean, he's in phase two. He's doing pretty well. His symptoms are down to almost nothing. His major complaint is fatigue, but he's going through the program. He's done very well on the ImPACT test. The only reason we won't say that he passed the ImPACT test is because he has symptoms, but all the other stuff checked out. So, he's doing fine and he's in stage two, so the next phase we go to (is) three, four, five and see how he does.

"With (QB) Michael (Vick), there were some reports that Michael took a step back or he's not doing as well. That's not true. Michael has hit a plateau in his rehab and I explained to you guys before: in those different phases of rehab, when you get into a phase and you do certain activity, sometimes they get symptoms. We're in phase four right now. Michael got symptoms in phase four. I traced it back, with the people in Pittsburgh, to why he wasn't doing well on the ImPACT test and it's all related and it all has to do with his eye movement, visual tracking and how that affects his balance centers. So, what we've done is we've gone back and we've rehabbed those areas and we will test him again Monday in ImPACT and I have a feeling that he'll do better because we've addressed the problem that he has. That's how complex the whole concussion rehab and diagnosis and everything is. So, I'm working with the people in Pittsburgh. I'm working with (team internist) Dr. (Gary) Dorshimer who picked up some stuff on it. I picked up some stuff in rehab. We put our heads together, came up with this rehab program that's been out there and we're doing that with Mike and we'll see how he does. He's just hit a plateau at stage four and that's why we do them. That's why don't say, 'Oh, he doesn't have symptoms. Let's go play.'"

On whether Vick seems irritable due to his symptoms: "I don't know whether he's irritable. I'm irritable. We're all irritable. I think Mike Vick is a competitor who wants to play. He's not nasty or anything with me if that's what you mean. He seems, to me, like Mike Vick, but I think he wants to play."

On whether Vick will be behind in his conditioning should he be able to return to practice soon: "It's certainly a concern with any injury and as part of that rehab, those phases, he's right now in a phase where we get his heart rate up to 80 percent of what the target we want (is) or up to its maximum. He's doing sprint work on the treadmill and he's run outside like our regular offseason conditioning stuff and he's done very well with it. So, we hope that that correlates to when he gets back on the field that he's in good shape. I think anytime you return to football, those first couple of reps, you're like, 'Whoa'. But I think Mike's in pretty good shape. He ran with me today and I thought he did pretty well."

On the report that the team is using Vick's injury to justify starting QB Nick Foles: "There's no conspiracy here. We don't grade the ImPACT test, which he has not gotten back to baseline (on). I send that paper from the computer off to the people in Pittsburgh. They come back and say he has not passed baseline. That's an NFL rule. That has nothing to with anything with us. He's got to pass that before we can ever entertain the fact of him playing. So, I don't know where that came from. There's no conspiracy theory. As the gatekeeper of these guys, he's not going to play until he gets past baseline and gets through the five phases. He's in phase four, hasn't passed the baseline, hasn't seen the independent (neurologist) yet."

On what prompted him to find out more information regarding Vick from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: "Good question. He had three consecutive tests where it was at the same reaction time, which is unusual. But the reason that his reaction time is at that level where he just can't get back to baseline is because he can't track with his eyes quite as while. Like I told Mike, I said it's like having an ankle sprain. If you have an ankle sprain and you can get everything back but you've lost that little step, we've got to retrain you to get that step. We've just got to open up all the neuropathways and everything and get his eyes tracking again. There's a little program that we do on the computer to train him. He seemed to do better today. He did some yesterday, so I think he's making progress."

On whether all the concussion tests are mandated to be turned over to the NFL: "No, everybody just kind of cooperates with that."

On whether the NFL would have access to the results should they want to see them: "I would assume that they would. They've never asked for any of the records or anything, but I assume that they would. Listen, we're all schooled together, the 32 head athletic trainers, the 32 doctors. We all meet together at the combine. We know what it is. There's nobody that's going to put themselves out there, any doctor, any athletic trainer, anything like that, that where a player isn't back to normal are we going to put him out there. That would be foolish."

On whether it would be easier for a team to slow-play a recovery rather than speed it up with the league's emphasis on player safety: "I think you're asking a question related to the other one and, no, that's not happening here. I don't know about other teams. I know what we do. There's no conspiracy here. There's no slow-playing Mike. He's gone through the process as Mike's gone through the process. He's not back to baseline on the ImPACT test. He's in phase four of the rehabilitation program. What other teams do, I can't answer."

On his reaction when reports come out that Vick's tests results may have been doctored: "First of all, I haven't seen anything that said that the tests are doctored. I don't know where you came up with that. But in any event, I'm a process guy. We have certain steps we take. I'm following that process. It doesn't matter whether it's the newest guy on the roster, whether it's Michael Vick, whether it's LeSean McCoy, whether it's anybody, I follow that process. Right now, we're in the middle of that process. Unfortunately for Michael, he's at that one stage where we just can't get him over the top and we've gone back and we've looked at the rehab and we're doing the rehab with him and we'll get him there. It's not something that can't be corrected. It's just something that we're very, very, very dedicated to making sure that he's right, as with LeSean and everybody else that we've taken through this program."

On whether it is unusual for a player to be stagnant in phase four of the concussion protocol for as long as Vick has: "I think if you look at the numbers worldwide, it may be somewhat unusual. I don't think it's unusual for athletes and I think you've had athletes in this town that have taken that long. Maybe not with us, but you've had athletes in this town that have taken a while to get back and I think they're going through a lot of the same processes that we're going through. I told you there's no way I would judge that when those guys got hurt and whenever he gets better, he gets better. Once he's better, that's up to Coach (Reid) and everybody else involved to put him back on the field. I have nothing to do with that. I go and see Coach Reid every day, I give him a report and he says, 'How's Michael?' (I say) 'Here's where he's at.' 'Is he ready to play?' 'No, he's not ready to play and this is why.' That's what I do. Michael and I, we go through the rehab process like we're trying to get him better."

On when Vick's next ImPACT test will be: "We'll probably do it Monday."

On his opinion of the new protective equipment Vick is considering wearing: "That's something that we're not involved with. Whatever helmet he wears, we've contacted the manufacturer and they don't want anything added to their helmets. It's nothing that (head equipment manager) Greg (Delimitros) is doing or I'm doing or anything like that."

On whether Vick had an ImPACT test today: "He had one today and he'll have another one Monday."

On the results from Vick's ImPACT test today: "I do have the results for today and they're the same as they were two days ago. He's exactly the same."

On whether the symptoms that returned for Vick were limited to his eyes: "Well, what happened was, when he got into stage four and we started to do some of the balance stuff, he also developed symptoms where he was fatigued and they go along with each other. When you do vestibular rehabilitation, which is all the balance, eye-hand coordination, knowing where your body is in space and all that, sometimes you kick up fatigue. So when he's done with that session, he gets fatigued. Now, it does go away for him, but it's just that we can make it happen when we get him into rehab. Interestingly enough, today, he's done well up to this point. Today, before I came out, I did it with him (and) he didn't really have any symptoms and we'll see how he does over the next 24 hours."

On whether he feels as if, because Vick's return is taking so long, that they may have missed a concussion early in the year: "That's just crazy to try to pin that on us or him or anything. In my mind, he hasn't taken extra long. He's gone through our process, so that's the way it is."

On whether he begins to worry if there may be permanent damage for Vick if he continues to struggle passing phase four: "No, and if we get into next week, we've talked to the people in Pittsburgh about taking him out there and having him evaluated in their center. They have a huge center out there. Right now, that's not what all of us have decided, so we'll see how that goes. But I think what's happened in this stage four is he's leveled off. We've recognized the problem, we've got our heads together, we've decided what it is, we're going to rehabilitate that problem and then see where he's at. Then, if it doesn't come back, then we'll visit it some more."

On whether he feels the lengthy recovery from this concussion has made Vick believe he may never play again: "That hasn't come up with us. I'm telling you, he's working hard to try to get back out there and play. It hasn't come up with us at all. I don't think it's come up with anybody, not with his attitude the way it is with me."

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