Playing football is a violent game. Each play could be the last of your career, as the potential for injury is unavoidable in a sport which literally encourages 330-pound men to collide with each other at full speed.
But there’s one thing you don’t ever want to see happen. And that’s what occurred with Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson on the morning of August 3rd, 2011.
I was at training camp but I was on the other side of the field watching the wide receivers and the cornerbacks, so I didn’t see it happen. But others did, and they say the memory of what happened will stick with them for as long as they live.
Patterson collapsed to the ground between drills, where he started violently shaking. The seizure lasted four minutes, during which players shielded the view of Patterson from the rest of the fans at camp. They also attempted to block the sun from beating down on Patterson.
Patterson briefly lost consciousness and the scariest sight of all was the blood coming out of his mouth.
He was tended to by trainer Rick Burkholder and his staff. Rookie first round draft pick Danny Watkins, a trained firefighter, helped Burkholder by clearing space of the players.
Players watched and prayed, as an ambulance came, lifted Patterson onto a stretcher, and took him to Lehigh Valley Hospital for treatment.
Burkholder released a statement about Patterson’s condition:
“Chances are really good we’re going to keep him in overnight for observation. He’s there with his wife. The only thing that we’ve really ruled out, he didn’t have any bleeding in his brain or anything like that. The bleeding that some of you saw was that he bit his tongue, they’ve confirmed that, and they’re running more tests on him right now.
“But he’s very stable. He wants to come back to training camp, but he’s over there being observed, but that’s pretty normal for somebody who has a seizure. Standard protocol says keep him in overnight to watch him and keep some monitors on him and whatnot.”
There was no immediate timetable for Patterson’s return, and with another defensive tackle, Trevor Laws, also injured, the Eagles signed a pair of free agent defensive tackles: Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri.
For a while, it was unknown whether Patterson would play at all in 2011. Most of figured that he wouldn’t, especially when it was reported that he had a brain condition that would require surgery. Specifically, he had arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is the tangling of blood vessels near the skull.
In other words, he had a serious health condition and football was the farthest thing from everybody’s mind.
Incredibly though, medicine and proper treatment, as well as the knowledge that playing football would not worsen Patterson’s condition in any way, helped the Eagles’ defensive tackle play–and start–15 of the 16 games in 2011.
Now the longest-tenured member of the Eagles, Patterson collected 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks for the season.
A report surfaced on January 2nd that Patterson would require offseason surgery, which would take anywhere from one to six months for him to recover.
And that means that Patterson will be able to return again for the 2012 season.
In an incredible turn of events, Patterson has gone from possibly missing the entire season, and maybe never playing again, to playing regularly, as if nothing ever happened. It’s extremely similar to what happened to Jeremy Maclin this offseason.