By Steve Corkran
Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 at 7:09 pm in Oakland Raiders.
OAKLAND – Some kind of sign, that’s all the Raiders wanted. Finally, after an agonizing wait, injured wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey raised his right hand in the air as if to signal that he was all right after being drilled in the head by a Pittsburgh Steelers defender Sunday.
The sold-out crowd erupted into applause once they received the sign from Heyward-Bey.
A Raiders spokesman said Heyward-Bey is in stable condition and that he was being kept overnight at Mt. Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.
Thus inspired by Heyward-Bey’s arm-raising, the Raiders scored a touchdown four plays later and went on for a 34-31 victory at the Coliseum.
“It meant a lot,” Raiders running back Mike Goodson said. “He let you know that he’s all right, that he still had that fighting spirit.”
The Raiders channeled that spirit the rest of the game, using the helmet-to-chin hit by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy as added motivation.
“When we got in the kickoff huddle (after the touchdown),” Goodson said, “it was all, ‘Let’s go, DHB!’ They took our guy out. Nothing against them, but you get something out of that. It just lets you know that he’s all right.”
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said after the game that the only update he had on Heyward-Bey was that he suffered a concussion.
The injury was severe enough for him to be taken to a local hospital, yet no one called it a malicious play by Mundy.
Heyward-Bey suffered his injury as he attempted to catch a pass from quarterback Carson Palmer early in the fourth quarter, as two Steelers defenders closed in from either side. The officials didn’t call a penalty on the play.
Mundy’s helmet caught Heyward-Bey on the chin, knocking him unconscious and resulting in him hitting the turf face first.
He lay on the field for more than 10 minutes as numerous medical people tended to him. Ultimately, his head and neck were immobilized before he was placed on a body board, carted off the field and taken to the hospital.
Mundy said the location of his hit on Heyward-Bey was unintentional.
“I didn’t go in there trying to hit him with my helmet,” Mundy said. “Things like that happen so fast. He may have come down to the level of my helmet. I have to see the replay, I don’t know. … Unfortunately, things like that do happen. From my standpoint, they’re never intentional.”
Heyward-Bey’s injury underscored the perilous nature of the NFL.
“We always talk about, win, lose or draw, anytime you’re able to walk off the field, that’s a win,” Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. “Because we play a dangerous game. It’s in my opinion the best game in the world, but it’s one of the most violent.”
Heyward-Bey is in his fourth season with the Raiders. He was their first-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
Coincidentally, he suffered a similarly scary injury last season in a game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Again, Heyward-Bey’s head and neck were immobilized last Nov. 20, and he was carted off the field.
At one point Sunday, there were 10 or more medical people tending to Heyward-Bey, with teammates and fans unable to see what was going on.
“Yeah, it was definitely tense,” Raiders long-snapper Jon Condo said. “You couldn’t see him. They had him blocked off, with the cart in the way. You got to take a knee and send a prayer out to him, pray for his safety.”
Goodson suffered a neck injury during training camp in August. He, too, was placed on a body board with his head and neck immobilized before being transported to a hospital.
Goodson was released the same day after tests and observation. He said he expects Heyward-Bey to rebound the way he did.
“Darrius is a ballplayer, man,” Goodson said. “When you’re a ballplayer like that, it just comes natural. So, he’ll get back. I’m sure he’ll have to go through his treatments and all that, but he’s a professional. He’ll be back.”