Mitch Morse has entered concussion protocol, and that’s not good news for the Buffalo Bills’ veteran center.
With the NFL’s increased focus on head injuries, Morse will have to work through a five-step process and be cleared by both a team doctor and an independent neurological consultant before he can return to game action. While it’s a tough blow for the Bills, who have struggled to keep a healthy line on the field this season, it’s even worse news for the veteran lineman.
Morse, who signed a two-year contract extension to ensure he would be a Buffalo Bill through the 2024 season, is just 30 years old and is now dealing with the sixth known concussion of his eight-year career.
The 6’6” center started his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, who drafted him out of Missouri in 2015. It was while with the Chiefs that Morse would suffer his first three concussions — two of them in his rookie year.
Morse’s first concussion actually came in a game against the Bills, and cost the center the remainder of that 2015 Week 11 game and all of the following game. But, after missing just one week, Morse was back in the Chiefs’ lineup until the final game of the 2015 season, when he suffered the second concussion of his career — and season. Morse missed both of the Chiefs’ postseason games that year.
Two concussions in five weeks is concerning, but Morse said that the injuries could have been avoided. He claimed that he wasn’t wearing a mouthpiece, and that his helmet wasn’t up to the now-improved NFL standard for sufficient protection.
Morse played the next two seasons, missing time with a variety of other injuries, but his head seemed to be okay — until Week 6 of the 2018 season landed the then-third-year center back in concussion protocol after a game with the New England Patriots. It took five weeks before Morse was able to move past the third phase of the league’s concussion protocol, and another week before he would be ready to play after missing five games.
While Morse’s play on the field ranked among the top centers in the league, his injury history may have played a part in the Chiefs not exercising a fifth-year option and letting him test free agency at the end of his rookie contract.
Buffalo jumped on the chance to add an athletic center to their roster after the untimely retirement of Eric Wood due to injury the year before, and made Morse the (then) highest-paid center in the NFL with a four-year, $44.5 million contract.
During his first training camp with the Bills, however, Morse would again end up with a concussion. This time the injury caused him to miss the majority of training camp and all of Buffalo’s preseason games. However, the center was ready to go by the first game of the 2019 season, and became a key part of the Josh Allen-led Bills offense.
In November of 2020, Morse suffered his fifth concussion in a game against the Patriots. The injury came in the first quarter and looked like a routine play. While there was contact to the center’s facemask, review didn’t show a hard hit. However, Morse appeared dazed, and wound up on the ground, prompting the Bills’ training staff to remove him from the game and quickly rule him out. Morse missed the next two games.
Now, here he is with yet another concussion two years later.
#Bills Mitch Morse concussion:— Banged Up Bills (@BangedUpBills) December 18, 2022
Here’s the last 2 plays for Morse, the 1st video is when it looks like he suffered the hit coming around to block.
2nd clip, not much happens.
Likely came off the field & began having symptoms, got checked out.
Sixth concussion of his career. pic.twitter.com/p61oubT5ux
While we don’t know yet how long this one will keep him sidelined, it’s likely that Morse will miss some game time as the Bills try to secure their fourth straight AFC East championship. The question has already arisen: When does Morse decide that enough is enough?
“If (a concussion) happens a few more times, it’s just the nature of the beast,” Morse said after his 2019 concussion, admitting he knows what he’s in for. “You put pen to paper, you know what happens.”
After his 2020 concussion, Morse was quoted by Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News as saying, “It’s one of those things that you wonder, ‘Why is this happening to me? Am I damaged goods? What’s happening?’ In the back of your mind, you always wonder.”
We can just hope that he will make the best decision for his health and the future of himself and his family, but we can also hope that he can be a part of a Super Bowl run before health takes priority over playing.