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Monday Wakeup Call: To concuss or not to concuss

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, lunatics …

>> The Monday column covers a wonderful game by Sidney Crosby and still seeks more.

Here’s some of our pregame talk on how he’s being used …

>> I’ll visit with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 to discuss the column and more.

>> For anyone who missed it, the Sunday column compared the initial handling of Evgeni Malkin’s concussion-like symptoms to how the Penguins badly bungled the early days with Sidney Crosby.

I’ll hold to that today. Malkin was held out and administered, by all accounts, exemplary treatment leading to the official diagnosis issued late last night that he does, in fact, have a concussion and short-term memory loss.

The Trib’s Rob Rossi reported Sunday morning that Malkin was experiencing severe headaches and mild disorientation. He based that on impeccable sources close to the athlete. I know who they are. If you did, you wouldn’t doubt them for a second. The team responded after the morning skate by having Bylsma deny the headaches and disorientation, explicitly using those terms.

Then came word late last night of the concussion and memory loss.

I’ve only got this in response: I’ve been around the Pittsburgh Penguins, a world-class franchise led by the most world-class individual in Mario Lemieux, for the better part of my adult life. I’m disappointed in how they’ve acted in this specific regard.


>> Which Pitt team did you guess would show up at the Garden?

If it was the one where Tray Woodall takes over, the one where there’s some actual creativity in working the ball inside, the one where they own the boards … you win. Kevin Gorman reports from New York.

>> Quality Steelers draft analysis from Alan Robinson. Not feeling a first-round running back.

>> Columnist Joe Starkey would like it if the Steelers’ players zipped it.

>> Long-term deal for Neil Walker? Yes, please. Rob Biertempfel breaks it down, but I fear he falls well short of the new gold standard for opening sentences in journalism history.

>> Again, on Thursday morning, I’ll be heading to Bradenton for a week of baseball.

>> I’ll leave you with this beauty from Zdeno Chara yesterday, undoubtedly the greatest move in NHL history by anyone 6 feet 9 or taller …

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.


  1. Great synopsis of Malkin’s injury and the timeline of events. And your candid opinion is greatly appreciated.

    I find the way teams in the NHL report injuries is idiotic and most times laughable.

    DK: Well, there’s a difference between concealing injuries and criticizing a report verbatim, only to have the report proven 100 percent accurate by the end of that same night.

    • I’ll leave you with this beauty from ThunderChara yesterday, undoubtedly the greatest post in Blog history by any…how tall are you, Thunder?

    • This harks back to Sid’s injury where he was called out for not telling the Penguins enough, not having folks on the same page etc. Seems like the miscues were maybe as much the Pens not wanting to fess up as not knowing. Agree, it is embarrassing that Bylsma denies symptoms, then reports those same symptoms 8 hours later.

    • Clearly, there’s a translation issue? O.O but yeah, I agree it looks bad. Especially when Malkin comes out on Saturday and says he wants to play Sunday.

  2. Here’s hoping the Steelers can snag a good safety in an early round. Ryan Clark is playing elite ball but he’s not getting any younger. Troy, I hope rebounds, but I’m guessing he’s one more injury with downtime away from being jettisoned like Hines Ward was. It’s time to line up our next generation of safeties. I’ll be curious how USC’s T.J. McDonald looks at his Tuesday workout in Indy. He’s big, supposedly fast, and a great tackler. Apparently needs refining on his pass coverage, but who doesn’t? McDonald’s dad, Tim, was a stellar, six-time Pro Bowl-safety, won a SB with the 49ers, and also came out of SC. In fact, SC is sort of to safeties what Penn State used to be to linebackers. If McDonald is available when the Steelers draft in the 2nd round at #48, could be a good pick.

    DK: Echoed on early safety. Clark will be 34 in October. Polamalu will be 32 in April. And there’s absolutely no one behind them.

    • A couple of safeties that I see rated highly behind Kenny Vacarro – Texas (who is projected to go in Rd #1 )….to peek at in Rds 2 & 3 are…..Matt Elam (Fla., 5-10, 208 ), Eric Reid, (LSU, 6-1, 213), Jonathan Cyprien, (Florida Intl., 6-0, 217) and Shawn Williams, (Georgia, 6-0, 215).

      Happy draft watching and GO STEELERS !

  3. I know this is really uncool to say this but I just dont dig hockey. I look at that move and I am not impressed. Love the column. Keep up the great work

    • That’s ok Rhino, we talk baseball, football, basketball, even soccer here…heck UFC made it last week. You surely like one of those?

  4. “Again, on Thursday morning, I’ll be heading to Bradenton for a week of baseball.”

    Great. Just great. Now I am required to figure out if there are at least 500 feet between the press box and my seat.

    Dejan, just to be sure, cause I don’t want to spend another night in jail. Let’s also pick separate beaches.

  5. “When he was healthy in 2011, we had reports that his stuff was as good as ever,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “

    Hello….check the calendar. You signed the 41 year old in 2013.

    (actually I really don’t have a problem with the low risk signing. Just a problem with some of the quotes)

    Interesting information about Contreras and Cuba in RB’s article.

  6. Must be Spring Training for everyone. The headline in the Trib says ‘Spring training breakdown: Pirates 9, Twins 2′

    We played the Braves

  7. JAL’s Wrapped Up in Books Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Spring Training Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Draft Prospect Watch: Bryant Hits First Homer

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates defeat Braves, 9-2

    7 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Sunday notes: McDonald, Sanchez, Martin

    8 Hardball Times

    40000 days since Pittsburgh’s all-time record hits .500

    9 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Catcher Tony Sanchez Put On A Show Today

    Pirates Spring Training Pics

    10 Green Weenie

    Buc Bench Rolls Over Braves 9-2

  8. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Bradenton Herald

    Recap: Pittsburgh vs. Atlanta

    12 CBS Sports

    2013 Prospect Watch: Pittsburgh Pirates

    13 Chicago Tribune

    Pirates TeamReport,0,6265003.story

    14 Sarasota Herald Tribune

    Pirates make batboys feel welcome

    15 Baseball Nation

    What if baseball awards were given out like Oscars?

    16 Bleacher Report

    Major League Baseball: Players Looking for a Fresh Start on Their New Teams

    17 Sweetspot

    Need to add O, how about a platoon?

    18 PBC SITE

    Barmes’ blast backs strong pitching performances

    Pirates view rehabbing Contreras as low risk


    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Prospects Will Break Your Heart Top 101 Prospects

    20 Fangraphs

    Pirates Outfield Depth Chart Discussions

  9. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Tavon Austin runs an unofficial 4.25 at the NFL Combine

    Steve Breaston and his agent to talk with Steelers before end of Combine

    22 Steelers Depot

    -Steelers Draft Analysis: Running Backs


    23 Daily Telegraph

    Bradford City 0 Swansea City 5, Capital One Cup final: match report

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Arsenal woes: is Wenger really to blame for their current plight?


    25 Pensburgh

    Bennett Nets His First as Pens Beat Bolts 5-3

  10. I don’t understand the motivation behind denying Rossi’s report of headaches and disorientation. It doesn’t makes the situation any better to say Malkin was not experiencing either, then announce he had short term memory loss and has been diagnosed with a concussion. It almost seems like an attempt to discredit Rossi, but that makes little sense either, given he continues to host the PenguinsLive show part time.

    I think everyone would be best served to adopt my “Just let me know when he’s playing” approach. People drove themselves nuts during Crosby’s concussion recovery. Sometimes less is more.

    No way that happens though.

  11. Last morning on the road, heading back soon. Everyone have a good day.

  12. NHL team are funny about injuries. They try to release as little as possible. I’m surprised the Penguins said anything other than Malkin has an “upper body injury.”

    I don’t like the outright lying though. Glad they corrected it, but they could have just gone with “No comment, sorry. We’ll have more information after the game tonight.” It’s reminiscent of another management team in town, to which it is never good to be compared.

    Yes, I went there.

    • I agree. I don’t know if this is a new management/ownership policy in how to talk to the media, or just Bylsma’s way of sidestepping things, but the way they disclose player injuries or the status of those is not very professional. It’s almost condescending in it’s attempt to hide truths. I’m still waiting for the: “Malkin?…don’t know who you’re talking about.” answer.

  13. I’ve come to the conclusion that other than seeding for the playoffs and getting players conditioned and comfortable with the game speed; the NHL regular season is about as important as baseball spring training. Anyone taking the Pens W-L record (or any teams) as a barometer for how they will perform in the playoffs is clearly and deliberately fooling themselves. As for the Pens, I still see a team that can easily be exploited by another that is coached well enough and it disciplined enough to take advantage of all the bad habits they are still guilty of. Unless the Pens come up big enough at the trade deadline to acquire some key pieces to offset those issues, this is barely a playoff caliber team and the term “paper tiger” continues to suit them very well.

    • SJB,

      How dare you say anything even remotely negative about a Pittsburgh sports team! Especially the Pens? This site is strictly for “homers” and those who want to feel nothing but good from whatever is written here. Those individuals that want to talk about anything negative or want to make a less than flattering observation about a coach or player, take it somewhere else! Or, you will forever be labelled as a “troll”. In case you can’t sense the sarcasim here, I totally agree with your above post.

    • “barely a playoff caliber team”
      You might have some other valid points, but to suggest this is roughly the 8th or 9th best team in conference is a folly beyond words. They are very clearly one of the best in the conference. They are not without flaws, including taking stupid penalties (though without Malkin, that actually should improve), but in the end overall better than all but a couple.

      If the worst you can come up with is “they take too many stupid penalties,” then they are indeed a good team.

      That said, the playoffs are largely a crap-shoot where the team with the hot goalie wins. It’s really hard to control when your goalie gets hot, sorry.

    • When healthy, they are easily the most talented show on ice. No homerism needed to make that statement. Obviously, they could use better coaching as shown in losses to the NJD & PHI. Outside of those two, I think if they playoffs were tomorrow. They’d easily sweep the first round against anyone else.

  14. That was a hillarious opening on the Contreras article. So true though. I do like the move though, hopefully he will rehab well and have a positive impact on the club at some point soon.

  15. As far as buying out Walker’s arb years or extending him past 2016 goes, I wouldn’t even think about this until at least the All Star Break and maybe not even until the end of the season. Let’s see how the back holds up.

    • I totally agree 21. I posted some of my thoughts about this over the weekend.
      His health and age would make me very cautious.

      • I would agree as well but seeing what Weeks got on his deal and I do think Walker is better I would think a healthy year of .280 and 20 HR’s would start to make Walker pretty expensive. I imagine he is unsure of his own health right now and it took him longer then some to get to this point in his career. Signing him now may give him peace of mind and come at 2-3 million cheaper per year.

        It is a little bit of a risk but his offensive stats consistantly put him in the 6-10 rank among second baseman. The Pirates have had very few of those type of players over the last 10 years so I think it is a risk worth taking for a team like them.

        • I agree with you on the risk, Nate. This FO has taken more risk on older, more injury-prone players. They need to get him signed long-term sooner rather than later.

          • What if the back turns out to be a chronic problem? I don’t care if it costs more to wait.

            • Trust me as a 37 year that hasn’t been able to play any sport that involves jumping since I was 28 years old because of my chronic back problems I know that there is risk. There is risk with every deal.

              I feel that Walker if healthy is are most bankable player when it comes consistantcy with the exception of Cutch. Imagine if they would have waited another year to sign Cutch. Howard got 18 million in arbitration. Votto signed a giant contract after having back to back years like Cutch’s 2012 season. The Pirates may have saved 20-30 million over the life of Cutch’s contract by signing him last year.

              The player wants financial security and the team gets a cornerstone of the team for 4 or 5 years. There is risk but there is also risk in waiting. Cutch proved that last year.

              • Right. Which risk is riskier?

              • It is a good move to sign him up if he is healthy.
                What if this back problem turns him into Aki?
                Then you’re stuck paying him for the next 4 years or so. And I would imagine that the number at the last year or two would be $10 million+

          • Lucky, they haven’t taken a long-term risk with any older, more injury-prone players. The contract with Walker would be for more than 1 or 2 years… and locking him up for 5 to 8 years, while he still has 3 arb eligible years is a bit soon.

            But again, I have no idea who you’re taking about regarding this front office taking more risk on older, more injury prone players. They may sign an older, injury prone player for a one-year or two-year deal, but you’re overplaying the “this FO” is terrible card with your assessment.

            • Your opinion. Anything they pay guys like Liriano, Sanchez, Morton and even the minor league deal for Contreras is overpay to me.

              I know they say those are low-risk moves and they probably are, but they were ready to shove what, 12 million at Lirano before his “accident”?

              Money better served for a Walker-type.

              • What they’re paying those guys is peanuts and, IMO, would have absolutely nothing to do with a decision on what to do with Walker.

              • Lucky, the point here is that they haven’t done what you claim they have done: sign older, injury-prone players to bad contracts. They may sign BAD players to wasted contracts–and I will not argue that here–but saying they’ve done that

                Citing Liriano as a bad signing when it’s really team-friendly, regardless of the circumstances fudges the truth a bit, but I understand the sentiment. Reality: they DIDN’T sign Liriano to a bad deal. Really though, I’m just trying to clarify what some perceive to be the truth when it really isn’t. These guys do bad enough and have done plenty that is worth criticizing… signing older, injury-prone players to bad contraacts is not one of them. Or hasn’t been.

            • Good to have an opinion. That’s why I love the good ‘ol U.S. of A. Won’t cost us our lives or anything like that.

              • You should have dinner with my in-laws.

              • Please name one older, injury-prone risk that this front office has thrown millions of dollars at to sign?

                You can’t. Because they haven’t. You just want to lump everything under the “this front office is awful” umbrella. But when it comes to taking on several years of a bad contract, they haven’t done that.

              • Naje—please name one winning season this FO has produced since they took over in 2007. You can’t, because they haven’t. You just want to lump everything under “they came into a bad situation.”

              • Nice AW… wasn’t asking you and wasn’t talking about wins. I was talking about risky contracts that they’ve given to older, injury prone players, which, according to Lucky, they’ve done. And they haven’t.

                Contracts, that if you’re trying to compare to what Walker’s extension will look like, will not be comparable at all.

              • This front office is awful.

              • Naje, is the Lirano mess a mute point since he broke his arm? His ERA was over 5 last year and he’s always hurt.

                I know he did them a favor by hitting the door or falling in the bathroom or whatever the story is this week, but that was a big piece of loot they could have given to Walker.

                Sorry to hit a nerve with you, but their rep. proceeds them.

              • The FO is just unlucky, a victim of soicumstance

                Just ask them

                And what the heck do we know? (they will gladly answer that question…..)

              • I personally don’t think there’s anything in terms of financial commitments right now that would preclude them from signing Walker long term. They can worry about the financial impact when Walker’s larger years approach. Trade Melancon in 2016 when he’d get $10M in arb :-) or whatever.

                I don’t see Liriano’s contract as an impediment at all.

              • “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the ___ do you think you’re talking to? Oh yeah? OK.”

                Travis Bickle

                Sorry, Oscar overload.

              • No impediment, now, 21. He’s down to a million. I guess I am just a fan of PRNW and would like to see him bought out of his arb years.

              • The PBC has some decisions going forward, what with getting 13 million from other clubs this season, it will be a challenge for them to have the payroll they have right now.

                I know, I know, Burnett is done, and if we pick up Wandys option, the Stros will send some cashola to us.

                Sign Walker, that way you can even out his earnings.

                IMO, he is the real deal

              • I just want to wait a little longer Lucky. As I said above, I’m not thinking about this until the All Star break but I think I prefer after the year ensuring that he’s healthy. And if that’s the case, I’m all for going 1-2 years into free agency.

              • The Pirates FO is terrible. If your organization hasn’t made the playoffs, not to mention had a >.500 record for 20 years, almost everyone in the organization is probably overpaid.

              • am sure you mean <.500 record? unless you are talking about losing as a success… which… im sure the pirates FO has.

            • Biz, what exactly do you mean that it will be a challenge for them to have the payroll that they have right now?

              • Total payroll, 21, having it as high as they have it this year, but I am including the 13 million they are getting from the Yanks and Stros. From what I’ve read, even with that, the PBC payroll remains one of the lowest.

                Burnett comes off the books, and so does Barmes next season, right? Cutch goes up. Walker and Pedro, am pretty sure.

                Not trying to pick on the FO, just talking.

              • Gotcha, you’re talking about next year’s payroll? I guess I just don’t have the same concerns you do. Revenues are going up.

                Pedro gets the same next year as this year – $700k.

        • Good points, Nate.

          • Agree except that Walker isn’t in the same universe as Howard and Votto and probably not with Cutch. Two are MVPs and Cutch was fairly close.

            • I was referring to Nate’s earlier post. I would rather have him than Weeks. No, he’s not in those other guys’ class. But you factor that in the price. I have no problem waiting for a while to make sure his back is sound, and it’s not a no brainer, but it’s the closest thing they have to a no brainer after Cutch. He’s worth more than Nate and Doumit were when they were signed up.

  16. Zack Boychuk and Eric Tangradi = 19 games and ZERO goals
    Beau Bennett = 5 games and 1 goal

    Good to see Tangradi getting a shot in Winnipeg with his 6 min and 21 seconds of ice time.

  17. As for the concussion of Malkin; as long as its not a long term Crosby type issue it might not be all that bad considering the travel and game time he put in the KHL.

    • Well….memory loss is not a great sign. Not sure if that moves it up from Grade I to II or whatever. I used to know all the criteria but I’m sure they’ve changed….

      I have had a couple, all mild, never had any disorientation, or memory loss, vision issues or anything. Just fatigue.

      Last one I felt effects for about 3 weeks.

      Here’s hoping Geno is back sooner than that – but not one day sooner than he’s fully ready.

      • I’ve had a few myself Sarah.

        I guess my question is does everyone react the same way to a concussion. For instance you or I may just experience severe headaches and dizzyness while Geno may not but have some memory loss.

        Also are they judging his memory loss on his inability to speak English? Cause I’d like to remind them that his english was not any good to begin with!

        • Well – as of a few years ago, they had criteria for “grading” the concussions, and while it’s true everyone is different, if you have symptoms x or y or whatever, it’s automatically Grade-whatever.

          I seem to recall for example that “any” moment of unconsciousness, even a half a second, automatically made it something like Grade II i.e. moderate, not mild….and so on.

          I believe memory loss had the same connotation. If you have ANY loss of memory, you’re not in Mild category anymore.

          But it’s been awhile since I looked up all the definitions.

          Geno has already had one concussion, and the effects are cumulative. So he may take longer to come back from this one.


          These are far different than what I recall. Very informative….takes into account previous concussions….

      • Well I don’t really believe they need Geno to make the playoffs. To win the cup, yes. But to make the playoffs no. I would be in no rush to get him back for all the reasons we know all to well. If there are some silver linings in this:

        The rest will be good for him. He is on game 60 something while everyone else was on game 16. The fatigue of playing almost 40 games in the KHL was starting to show.

        And to be honest, hopefully will lose some of the free-wheeling/wide-open style that Geno brings. It’s hard to not want to play that way when he makes it look so easy, but to many guys try to keep up with him and just can’t. Maybe some time-off will get the Penguins to learn to play more within their abilities and a more “Playoff Friendly” style.

        And I’m not trying to suggest I’m glad he is hurt or don’t want him back or anything crazy like that….just trying to say that this isn’t the end of the world and in the long run there might be some good things that come from this team learning to play without him.

  18. Anyone happen to catch my appearance on the Oscars last night?

  19. The Zdeno Chara shot…great shot, actually, but I don’t like Chara much after some the headshots he’s gotten away with the last couple seasons.

  20. Actually, Geno’s disorientation isn’t from the concussion. It’s from having to play with Tangradi & Boychuk most of the season.

  21. Anyone want to guess where Alex Smith is headed?

    The trade is apparently all but done. However, we have no idea where.

    I think he’ll go to KC.

  22. I love Kristen Chenowith’s voice.

    I love it as much as I love running over my foot with a lawnmower.

  23. we need a Bradenton report. where is Drew?

  24. I liked it when the one chick/dude went up onstage to accept his/her award in that outfit that everyone loved/hated and their speech was to long/stupid/drunk.

    And i was shocked Seth Meyers made off-color jokes about the snobby Hollywood types.

    Said nobody, ever.

    You folks do know there was hockey on, right? You know…Sticks and Pucks?Canadian mud farmers hitting each other with sticks? A few Americans thrown in because there weren’t enough words being uttered that started with ‘F’ and ended with ‘K’?

  25. This folk was watching hockey….

  26. Sounds like the Pens signed Mark Eaton to a 1 year contract. Not sure how I feel about this signing after watching him play with the Islanders last year, but I’m also not remembering who his defensive partner was to know if they were any help at all. I wonder what this means for the current roster. It would appear there are maybe five options and I’m not sure how much I like any of them except for in the short term.

    Short Term Option: Malkin goes on IR and Eaton can fit into the roster. The real question is what happens when he comes back.

    Option 1: Despres doesn’t have to clear waivers and is sent back to AHL. I don’t know how much this helps his development and he seems to be the strongest player on the third line right now.

    Option 2: Bortuzzo is placed on waivers and we say good-bye, similar to what happened with Strait. Bad idea!!!

    Option 3: Boychuck was a nice experience, but we put him back on waivers. Carolina has said they will pick him back up if the Pens were to do that. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on him yet.

    Option 4: Bennett gets sent back to the AHL without clearing waivers. I hate this idea because I think each game he is developing NHL skill that can be utilized on one of the top two wings.

    Option 5: Pens do some kind of trade that will likely include Bortuzzo or Despres and maybe (fingers crossed) TK for someone who can play on the wing in the top 2 lines.

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