By all accounts, Darrius Heyward-Bey is going to be fine.
The Raiders wide receiver was released from the hospital Monday, a day after he was knocked out of Oakland’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He suffered a concussion and has a strained neck, but head coach Dennis Allen told reporters Monday “we’re blessed” that the injuries weren’t more serious.
There’s no time yet set for when Heyward-Bey can get back to practicing or playing. The Raiders will need to evaluate him over the next few days to see if he will be able to play this coming Sunday in Denver against the Broncos.
“The concussion is obviously the bigger issue than anything else right now,” Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Heyward-Bey was hit by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy as he was attempting to catch a ball thrown by Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. Mundy’s helmet appeared to hit Heyward-Bey in the chin, and the Raiders receiver crumpled to the turf. After being unconscious for several minutes, Heyward-Bey eventually was taken off the field on a stretcher.
For Heyward-Bey, the concussion and neck injury are eerily similar to the injuries he suffered last season in a game against the Vikings and are a reminder how vulnerable wide receivers are. With their concentration fully on their routes and the ball in flight from the quarterback, they can suffer serious injuries from defensive backs who try to collide with them the same time the ball arrives – as Mundy did.
Last season, Heyward-Bey was down on the ground for several minutes before being carted off the field in Minnesota after taking a knee to the back of his helmet from a tackler coming in to help after an initial hit.
Last year, too, he was taken to a hospital for observation. He had a concussion and had to wear a neck brace, but was cleared to practice within a few days.
On Monday, Allen said Mundy’s hit was a clean football play. But that doesn’t mean the risk is any less for Heyward-Bey or any other receiver in the NFL.
“It’s the game of football,” Allen told the media Monday. “I don’t think people are trying to go out there and hurt people. The safety was playing the game fast and physical. It’s a tough game to play when you’re making split-second decisions on how you play the game. It’s the unfortunate things that happen in this game but we move on from it.”
If Heyward-Bey is out this Sunday, Derek Hagan is likely to see more playing time against the Broncos.
Against the Steelers Sunday, Hagan caught three balls for 30 yards – including a crucial catch for 17 yards late in the game that set up Sebastian Janikowski’s game-winning field goal in the 34-31 victory.