Two scary injuries on same day remind the Chargers ‘your life is literally in danger’
Almost a week later, the impact still resonates with Dan Feeney. The collision was so violent that it practically continues to echo.
“It was just super loud,” the Chargers offensive lineman said. “You don’t forget hits like that. You can’t forget that sound. It was just totally different. It was nuts. My thoughts and prayers go out to him.”
Feeney was blocking in the second quarter Sunday when Denver cornerback De’Vante Bausby was blasted by teammate Alexander Johnson as the two Broncos were making a tackle.
Bausby, who has been waived seven times and played only 15 NFL games, stayed down and didn’t move for several minutes on the field at Dignity Health Sports Park. Denver’s medical staff removed the face mask from his helmet, stabilized his neck, strapped him to a backboard and rolled him off in a cart. He was transported to a nearby trauma center.
With defensive lapses to start the first or second half, the 2-3 Chargers need to find consistency with the Steelers coming to town.
Two days later, back in Denver, Bausby told reporters he was paralyzed for 30 minutes before he could wiggle his toes. He said he could move everything else within two hours.
Then he vowed to strengthen his neck muscles and return to the field as soon as possible. “I’ll be good to go,” he said.
“It was definitely scary, for sure,” Chargers right guard Michael Schofield recalled. “You never want to see anyone getting carted off. We’re all football players and understand how fleeting this really is.”
The Chargers were reminded of that last weekend, and not just because of what happened to one of the other team’s players.
Early in the third quarter, defensive tackle Damion Square walked up to teammate Mike Pouncey standing on the Chargers’ sideline. Square was confused, unsure why Pouncey was out of the game, until he asked and Pouncey revealed his injury.
“I gave him a look like, ‘Oh, God,’ ” Square said. “You start worrying about a guy’s livelihood and well being. Football goes out the window immediately. We’re concerned about Mike being able to be a father, be a brother, be a son.”
During the first half, Pouncey, a veteran center in his ninth season, began to feel his arms go limp. He continued to lose sensation in his fingers and hands. At one point, he couldn’t feel himself gripping a football.
While the rest of the Chargers were readying Friday morning for their upcoming game against the Steelers, Pouncey was in Pittsburgh having neck surgery. The situation is serious enough that the Chargers are unsure of his playing future.
“He’s like one of the warriors,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “He’s one of the guys that’s always invincible. If he’s got something bothering him, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to be out there. You see him go down with something this severe … it takes a little bit out of you.”
Bausby’s injury was the result of a freak accident, Pouncey’s likely the accumulation of a lifetime of football hits.
Both reinforced the reality that NFL players all are part of the same violent fraternity.
“It’s a violent game,” Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. “There’s sort of a gentleman’s rule like, ‘Hey, I’m not trying to kill you kill you.’ That’s not why we’re out there. We’re not out there to destroy other people’s lives.
“I think the league has done a good job with the rules. If you play within the rules, then you’re probably not going to make that bone-crushing hit that’s going to end someone’s career.”
All this happened in the same week the NFL upheld the suspension of Oakland linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who’s banned for the rest of the season because of his latest helmet-to-helmet blow and history of illegal hits.
The Chargers placed center Mike Pouncey on injured reserve Wednesday because of a neck injury he suffered during a loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Ekeler was the victim of a similar frightening incident last season when Cincinnati’s Clayton Fejedelem drilled him up high and illegally on an onside kick. Fejedelem was called for a 10-yard penalty. Ekeler missed the next two games.
While he recovered, Ekeler wore a neck brace and moved around the locker room gingerly, looking like the survivor of an auto accident.
Widely considered to be the strongest pound-for-pound player on the team, he couldn’t pick up a 20-pound dumbbell with his left arm.
“If you love the game, you gotta know, ‘Hey, look, your life is literally in danger,’ ” Ekeler said. “Even the longevity of your life and the future. You’re probably going to have some problems later on.
“You don’t have to be out there. There’s a lot that goes into why we do this. Money, family, love of the game. It’s different for different people. You gotta be smart and hope everyone follows the rules.”
And, Ekeler added, it helps when players remember they can be on both opposing teams and the same side too.
“It’s an unwritten rule,” Feeney said. “Protect each other. It takes so long for guys to get here. There are so many sacrifices to reach this elite level. You don’t want to be the guy that, you know, messes somebody up, permanently or just temporarily.”
Tight end Hunter Henry practiced Friday and was listed as questionable for Sunday. Afterward, he sounded like someone expecting to play.
“I feel ready to go,” Henry said, “and [I’m] kind of raring up for Sunday.”
Henry suffered a knee fracture in the season opener and missed the last four games. Defensive end Melvin Ingram also was listed as questionable because of a hamstring injury. The Chargers are less optimistic about having him Sunday.
With Pouncey sidelined for the reminder of the season, Feeney will move to center and Forrest Lamp will make his first NFL start, playing left guard against the Steelers. The Chargers’ offensive line depth includes Scott Quessenberry and Ryan Groy at center and guard and Trey Pipkins at tackle. … Pittsburgh announced Friday that quarterback Mason Rudolph (concussion) will not play Sunday. Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges will make his first career start.
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