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49ers to Err on Side of Caution with Antoine Bethea

Posted Aug 20, 2014

After being concussed in the game against the Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers safety must go through NFL protocol before returning to the field.

In the preseason, wins and losses are almost entirely for show.

So when the San Francisco 49ers fell, 34-0, in their Levi’s® Stadium debut to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the team’s biggest loss wasn’t the final score. Instead, it came when free-agent acquisition Antoine Bethea suffered a concussion and left the game in the second quarter.

The veteran strong safety now must go through the NFL’s protocol dealing with head injuries before he can return to the field. The process involves a step-by-step program with checkpoints along the way to ensure that the player doesn’t overexert himself too soon.

“It’s based on how they respond with their symptoms,” Jim Harbaugh said when asked how long Bethea would be out. “When they’re asymptomatic, then they’re progressed to running. And then another day goes by, or two, until they’re not symptomatic and show they’re not symptomatic from running and exerting themselves.

"Then it progresses to practice without contact. Again, if they’re asymptomatic, then it progresses to contact again. See what the symptoms there are, if any. If not, then they’re progressed back into playing.”

With three weeks separating Sunday’s game from the 49ers regular-season opener in Dallas on Sept. 7, it seems feasible that Bethea would be ready in time. The team, however, won’t rush his return.

The veteran’s absence in the interim will open up playing time for others in the secondary, including D.J. Campbell and Craig Dahl, who took over when Bethea exited the Broncos game and recorded five tackles.

“We’ll miss Antoine Bethea,” free safety Eric Reid said, “but we have other guys that need to step in.”

As with any position on the team, it’s important for the backups to show what they can do in the preseason in case they’re called upon to fill in when the games begin to count. 

“Like you saw with Antoine, guys that are playing in the preseason are one play away from being our starter,” Reid said. “We have to take advantage of practice and get better.”


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