Rich Hofmann: Terror a reality after collision between Asomugha, Allen

Posted: August 15, 2012

BETHLEHEM - The pass from Michael Vick was intended for DeSean Jackson, and it looked as if it was overthrown, or off-target, or whatever. Some of the details are kind of sketchy. It was midway through the second practice of the second-to-last day of Eagles training camp at Lehigh University and, truth be told, it wasn't as if reporters were diagramming what was going on.

It was just another play.

Both safety Nate Allen and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha went for the ball. It is what they do. They were wearing pads, and this was real work in a physical training camp, and the two collided midair. Allen would be able to smile and kind of shrug after practice, when everything seemed fine - "Friendly fire," he said - but the collision violently hurled them in different directions. Allen got up pretty quickly. Asomugha, face down, did not.

It was just another play.

It was 4 minutes of terror.

The official word from the Eagles is that Asomugha suffered a lacerated lip and has a sore neck, but that he is not suffering from any concussion symptoms. After seeing the play, and the aftermath, it was as good a prognosis as could be reasonably hoped for. Because this was one of those scenes you never get used to seeing, not for as long as you watch this sport.

"I saw him," Allen said, later. "But when you're out there, you're just playing fast and things happen and you collide sometimes. I was hoping for the best. But you've got to go for the ball. You can't dodge each other."

It was 4:08 p.m. when the collision took place. Allen said he thought that Asomugha's helmet hit him in the sternum, and that his arm might have hit Asomugha, but that, "It happened so fast, it's hard to tell what hit what."

The awkwardness of the aftermath is what got you, the way the bodies flew and then fell. Allen got up pretty quickly, even if he was in some distress. He coughed, and then punched himself in the chest, and then coughed again, and then punched himself in the chest again, and on and on for several minutes.

"I felt fine," Allen said. "I just had to get myself back together. As soon as it happened, it knocked the wind out of me, and I laid there for a little bit and kind of felt around and made sure everything was in one piece. And I was good to go."

Asomugha, though, remained down. Quickly, he was attended to by the Eagles' head athletic trainer, Rick Burkholder, as well as other personnel. His leg seemed to move at one point, just a little, and that was the best sign. But he was face down and he was not getting up.

After a minute or two, players began removing their helmets and kneeling in place, in silent prayer or concern or contemplation. Several players circled near their fallen teammate and also took a knee. It is the way these padded warriors express their worry, and their silent fear.

What they do for a living is well-compensated insanity, and they all know it, and these are the awful moments when nobody thinks about the money and everybody worries about the state of the bargain that they all have made: fortune and fame and camaraderie on one side of the scale, physical danger on the other side.

"You always worry when you see guys laid out on the ground," Allen said. "But I think he's all right."

It was 4:12 when Asomugha managed to get to his knees. The crowd in the stands exhaled and then cheered wildly. Allen was still coughing and the medical people were still tending to Asomugha, and things still were not entirely clear. But then he stood up and the crowd cheered wildly again. The cheers came a third time when Asomugha, now seated in a cart, was driven off the practice fields and back to the locker room. He seemed to lean over and spit blood several times out of the side of the cart.

"He looked all right," Allen said. "He was smiling a little bit and stuff, and he was talking. It wasn't like he was out of it or concussed or anything."

Remember, Asomugha suffered a concussion last year in the Seattle game in December, but was back at practice 4 days later after being cleared by medical personnel. The concern was about the cumulative effects if there had been another concussion, but that point now seems moot. Still, you wonder how Asomugha might feel in the morning.

The only certainty is that, after Asomugha was driven off the field, the offense and defense huddled again (with Allen back on the field at safety). The next play featured Shady McCoy out of the backfield and streaking up the right sideline.

It was 4:14 p.m.

It was just another play.


Contact Rich Hofmann at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter @TheIdleRich. Read his blog at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich.

For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/RichHofmann.

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