HOUSTON -- Anthony Richardson, in the midst of one of the best football games of his life, quickly realized something wasn't right.
So, after scoring two touchdowns in a span of two offensive plays, the Indianapolis Colts' rookie quarterback admitted he was experiencing concussion symptoms early in the second quarter of Sunday's 31-20 win over the Houston Texans. After a concussion evaluation, Richardson was pulled from the game and did not return.
His status going forward will be determined in accordance with the NFL's concussion protocol as the Colts (1-1) look to a road game in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Richardson gave way to backup Gardner Minshew, who entered the game with 12:45 remaining in the second quarter.
The concussion, Colts coach Shane Steichen believes, occurred when Richardson scored on a 15-yard touchdown run with 9:18 remaining in the first quarter. Richardson, who turned the corner after a devastating block by receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and a downfield block by tight end Kylen Granson, appeared to think he would reach the end zone untouched. But just as he neared the goal line, Houston safety M.J. Stewart converged and hit Richardson at full speed, knocking him down as he reached the end zone and causing his head to hit the turf field.
"He just didn't see him," Pittman said of Richardson. "He thought he was home free. He caught a shot at the end, which I thought was unnecessary. But then he bounced up so fast, I was like, 'Yeah!'"
Richardson did indeed bounce right up and celebrated with his teammates. It was a justified celebration, too, as Richardson had reached the end zone for the second time after capping the Colts' previous drive with an 18-yard touchdown on a draw play that led to an easy score. His second score likely proved much more costly, but it wasn't immediately apparent.
Richardson returned to the game for two subsequent series, playing six more snaps before he informed trainers of his issues. Richardson completed 1 of his 3 pass attempts following the hit that was believed to cause the concussion. It was unclear whether the Colts' trainers or the NFL's independent concussion spotters -- known officially as unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants (UNCs) -- realized Richardson's head hit the turf.
The role of those physicians came under scrutiny last season when a concussion sustained by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa resulted in the NFL Players Association terminating one of the UNCs involved in Tagovailoa's diagnosis.
When asked about Richardson's injury, NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy said evaluators are looking out for behavior that's symptomatic of a concussion, not hard hits.
"The role of spotters is to look for injurious behavior. If the spotters observe a player demonstrate such behavior as struggling to get up, displaying instability, disorientation, or distress they will call down to on-field medical staff to ensure he is evaluated," McCarthy said in a statement. "The spotters are not looking for hard hits but rather behavior following a play that necessitates evaluation."
In Richardson's case, his honesty about the situation ultimately led to the right outcome. And it likely was not an easy decision given how Richardson was performing in the game.
"I feel like that's the most mature thing you can do as a professional athlete is to acknowledge, 'Hey, I'm not right right now,'" Granson said. "'I'm not going to help my team win, so let's put someone in there who can help us win and I'll come back.' So, I think that was a very mature, professional thing, because the last thing you want is someone to play through something like that and then it gets worse and then you're talking about who knows what.
"It was very smart, very mature and it's definitely hard to do. You never want to step off the field as a competitor, as a pro athlete. You want to stay out there with your teammates. But it's for the good of the team."
Richardson was 6-of-10 for 56 yards passing in his brief time in the lineup. He added 35 rushing yards on three carries. Minshew had a very efficient performance in his place, throwing for 171 yards on 19-of-23 passing with a touchdown and no interceptions. The Colts cruised to the win after leading by as many as 21 points before the Texans made things interesting with 10 fourth-quarter points.
Now, attention will turn to Richardson's recovery. There is also sure to be further analysis of his playing style and whether it has contributed to him leaving both of the Colts' games this season prematurely. Richardson was pulled in the final moments of the Colts' Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars after taking a shot to his knee.
A big, physical quarterback who embraces contact, Richardson is trying to toe a fine line between tapping into his best skills and playing it safe given his status as the No. 4 draft pick and the future of the Colts' franchise.
"You're always concerned," Colts owner Jim Irsay said after the game. "The first game, he banged up the knee, but it was OK, just a contusion. This game, banging the head. I think it's just something where he's got to protect himself. He's a big physical guy. Obviously, he can run the football and guys do a lot of running now at that position. And, so I think self-protection is an issue."