After taking a friendly fire hit from teammate Andrew Sendejo while playing the Packers on Sept. 26, Avonte Maddox was sprawled out across the 5-yard line at Lambeau Field as his legs writhed in pain.
Above his waist … nothing.
For about 20 seconds, Maddox had no feeling in his upper body. Finally, thankfully, mercifully, it came back.
"‘OK, I'm not paralyzed,'" Maddox relayed his thoughts from that moment on Wednesday, over a month after the hit. "That's when I started smiling."
And that's when his focus shifted immediately back to the game, which had just over a minute remaining.
Maddox, 23, is known as a jovial guy. He's always smiling, laughing, cracking jokes. So once he realized he wasn't paralyzed, he made a conscious effort to smile and joke with his teammates. He knew exactly how to let them know he was going to be OK.
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After the huge 34-27 win in Green Bay, his teammates, including Sendejo, said that Maddox's behavior as he was taken off the field in a stretcher eased their minds.
"Yeah, they know how I am as a person," Maddox said. "I'm always smiling, always joking around. If they know they can get a smile out of me, then it's at ease, make sure they ain't worried about me. They got a game to finish. We wanted to come out with a victory, which we did. I came out all right as of now, so we're good."
Maddox suffered a concussion and a neck injury and has missed the last four games. But he has been cleared and returned to practice last Friday. Maddox was a full participant to begin this week and fully expects to be back in action this Sunday against the Bears.
And he's also 100 percent. Maddox said with the severity of head and neck injuries, he wouldn't be playing if he was anything less.
On Wednesday, he bragged about pulling in a one-handed interception and scoring a touchdown.
In the moment, as he was being taken off the field in a stretcher toward a waiting ambulance, all Maddox could think about was returning to the game. He wanted to keep playing, but he obviously couldn't. So he began to ask those around him in the tunnel to check the score of the game on their phones. But have you ever tried to use your phone in a stadium full of 77,509 people? Cell service wasn't working.
That's when Maddox heard loud cheering from the capacity crowd. He knew the Packers were driving. He knew it was a home crowd. So he feared the worst.
"So I'm like, ‘ah s-, they're at home," he said. "They probably just scored."
But that's when someone told him they thought it looked like the Eagles were running the other way. He didn't find out until later at the hospital that Nigel Bradham picked off a pass and the Eagles won.
Maddox's stay in the hospital was brief. In fact, he made it back on the plane ride home. Since then, he's just been eagerly waiting to play again. It sounds like that will come on Sunday.
Despite how scary this whole incident was, Maddox has no pause about returning to the football field.
"I'm good," Maddox said. "I know this, my dad always told me, ‘you go out there and play scared, that's when bad things happen.' I wouldn't put myself back on the field if I didn't feel I was 100 percent ready. I feel ready, so that's something I don't think about."
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