For Eagles' Patterson, one sweet sack

Eagles DT Mike Patterson sacked Browns QB Colt McCoy during Thursday's preseason game. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles DT Mike Patterson sacked Browns QB Colt McCoy during Thursday's preseason game. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 28, 2011

Once again, Mike Patterson didn't know if he would get to keep what he had, or if something beyond his control would rob him of it.

In this case, it was only a sack, only a momentary smile in an exhibition football game that would be meaningless as soon as it ended. But, still, he wanted the sack.

"Oh, that's a good thing any time. Playoffs. Preseason. It doesn't matter," he said. "Getting a sack is good."

Getting this one was perhaps even better, coming just three weeks and a day after the defensive tackle collapsed to the practice field at Lehigh, struck down by a sudden seizure that was unexpected and unexplained.

He came through the scary experience, got better news about the prognosis than he could have hoped, and here he was, breaking through the line against the Cleveland Browns to throw Colt McCoy for a five-yard loss in the first quarter.

At the same moment, the referee tossed a flag for offensive holding, and it was a question of whether the Eagles would rather give the Browns a second-and-15 situation - and give Patterson the sack - or take the penalty to make it first and 20, and have the play wiped out.

It was a coin flip of a decision, but the Eagles declined the penalty, and who's to say they didn't do it for Mike Patterson, a guy who deserves a smile these days?

"I had butterflies about getting back on the field. It had been a while since we'd been together as a group. I was nervous to get back on the field," Patterson said. "But I'd been practicing for the last week, so any questions are out of my mind now."

Patterson was found to have an abnormality in the blood vessels and arteries between his skull and his brain, a condition called arteriovenous malformation, which can cut off or limit the blood flow in the area. In Patterson's case, the previously undiagnosed condition led to the Aug. 3 seizure that lasted four minutes. The player was unconscious for a time and bit his tongue, causing him to bleed profusely while his stunned, terrified teammates looked on. Defensive end Trent Cole threw his helmet to the ground in disbelief as team trainer Rick Burkholder worked to stabilize Patterson.

"It's so good to have him back. I was really scared for him," Cole said Thursday night. "I came in with Mike P., and in the NFL that's the only friends you've got. It's a brotherhood. When you see your partner go down, you think about all the things that can happen."

The initial reports were that Patterson would require surgery and would have to miss the season at best, and might have to retire from the game at worst. That would have been true depending on the location and size of the AVM, but Patterson got a lucky, unlucky break in that regard - his second lucky, unlucky break, according to Patterson.

"I'm very thankful that the seizure happened in that situation, and that I had trainers and doctors right there and everybody was able to respond real quick to it," Patterson said. "Everything was a blessing in disguise, and I'm happy with the way it worked out."

Patterson saw three specialists in person and a fourth consulted on the case after reviewing test results. They all said that, in his case, the seizures could be controlled with medication, and the AVM itself would not be affected by playing football. If that seems hard to believe given the nature of the game, Patterson would agree.

"At first, you kind of question it because it's something to do with your head," Patterson said. "But when they told me football would have no effect on it, it became easy for me to tune everything out, and just go play. You have to treat it that way, because if you let it slip in and you think about it, then you're going to keep thinking about it."

That's a football player's way of looking at things. There are gaps and you hit the one in front of you straight on. There is no point in worrying about the others.

"I know he was anxious to get back on the field," defensive end Juqua Parker said. "But once he forgot about what happened, he was ready to go play. That was his mind-set. It's a dangerous game and that's what we do."

Patterson played about 14 or 15 snaps against Cleveland, and the sack came somewhere in the middle of his return to the game. Andy Reid doesn't usually play his regulars in the final exhibition game, so Patterson's short stint will probably have to serve as his dress rehearsal for the regular season.

"It's OK. When he got that sack, it was, like, 'Hey, guys. I've still got it,' " defensive end Jason Babin said. "The moment he got back to Lehigh, he said that he would be back. There was no doubt in his mind. So, we just said, 'OK, man. Whatever you want.' "

What Patterson wanted was a reprieve from what looked like a sentence for a crime he didn't commit.

"Once they told me I could play, it was such a relief," Patterson said. "I just wanted to say, 'Thank you. Now, I can continue my life.'"

These guys, particularly the grunts in the line, get taken for granted sometimes. They get injured and disappear. They get replaced and have to try it somewhere else. They drift down the depth chart and become invisible on the sideline.

But this has been different, and not just because Patterson is a starter in the prime of his career. This was a sudden twist in the dangerous game that scared even the battle-hardened among them. They had seen everything, but perhaps not anything that bad. Then, on Thursday, they saw their man came back and got a sack.

He even got to keep it.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/

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