With the football season well underway, all NFL teams are dealing with their fair share of physical trauma. Most of the injuries are of the garden variety—sprained ankles, broken bones and bruised egos, for example. But every so often an unsuspecting NFL player or coach is knocked out of action in truly curious fashion. With this in mind, Failure has assembled a collection of some of the strangest injuries in football history. In the interest of decency, the list excludes motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds and drug overdoses.
It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Gets Hurt
During the first quarter of a game against the New York Giants in December, 2001, Arizona Cardinals placekicker Martin Gramatica jumped high in the air in celebration after converting a 42-yard field goal. He landed awkwardly, however, and tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus in his right knee, an injury that required major reconstructive surgery.
Kicker Gets the Ax
On October 9, 2003, Jacksonville Jaguars punter Chris Hanson gashed his right leg with an ax while chopping wood in the team's locker room. Believe it or not, the wood and the ax had been placed in the room at the behest of head coach Jack Del Rio, who was using the mantra “keep chopping wood” to inspire his players after a 0-3 start. Hanson required emergency surgery that ended his season. But this wasn’t the first time Hanson suffered an odd off-the-field injury. In June of 2002, Hanson, his wife, and former Jaguars placekicker Jaret Holmes were all severely burned at Hanson’s house when a fondue pot overturned.
On December 19, 1999, Orlando Brown, a six-foot-seven, 360-pound offensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns went down in a heap after being hit in the face with a penalty flag—then abruptly got up and shoved diminutive referee Jeff Triplette, who had thrown the flag. At the time, the league’s yellow penalty hankies were weighted with popcorn kernels, and the massive lineman suffered loss of vision and damage to his right eye. Brown went on to sue the NFL and missed three full seasons before making a comeback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003. The injury prompted the league to require all penalty flags to be weighted with sand.
Rac ’Em Up
On August 12, 2006, “T-Rac,” the mascot for the Tennessee Titans, hit New Orleans Saints fourth-string quarterback Adrian McPherson with a golf cart as McPherson walked onto the field for the second half of an exhibition contest between the two teams. McPherson left the field with a “bruise” and didn’t play in the game, losing a precious opportunity to make an impression on coaches and win an NFL job.
On September 30, 2007, following a 16-3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn was bumped by a reporter in the team’s locker room as he cleaned his ear with a cotton swab. Blackburn dropped to the floor in pain—his eardrum nearly ruptured by the invading swab—and reported a loss of hearing. Only a year earlier, Blackburn had endured a much more serious injury scare. In December 2006, he was temporarily paralyzed after injuring his neck while making a tackle during a 35-20 loss to the Washington Redskins.
On November 23, 1997, after scoring on a one-yard run late in the first half of a game against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte celebrated by head-butting a padded wall adjacent to the end zone. Redskins’ head coach Norv Turner was seen mouthing the words “What happened?” to Frerotte on the sidelines after being informed that his starting quarterback had suffered a sprained neck that required X-rays and a trip to a local hospital for evaluation.
And, on October 9, 2006, Pittsburgh Steelers’ right guard Kendall Simmons suffered a frostbite-like burn after falling asleep with a chemical ice pack on his foot while watching Monday Night Football. The Steelers held Simmons out of the team’s following game, fearful that the hideous-looking open wound would become infected.
On July 26, 2003, Kindal Moorehead, a defensive tackle and fifth-round draft choice of the Carolina Panthers, awakened on the first day of the team’s training camp with a mysterious bite mark on his right firearm. Four days later he was hospitalized—kept on intravenous fluids and antibiotics for four days—after his forearm, hand and elbow became infected and swelled to outsized proportions. Team doctors believe Moorehead was bitten by a spider.
On June 13, 2007, Washington Redskins rookie safety LaRon Landry—the sixth overall pick in that year’s draft—took a paintball shot in the groin during a team-building outing, leaving him unable to practice when the team opened its minicamp two days later.
In an even more unlikely accident, on May 18, 2003, Derrick Mason, a wide receiver for the Tennessee Titans, broke his right hand while teeing off at a charity golf event sponsored by Titans’ head coach Jeff Fischer. “It’s just one of those freak things,” said Mason after-the-fact. “I hit the ball the wrong way and kind of twisted my hand.”
On September 19, 1971, in his regular season debut as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Dan Devine found himself unable to get out of the way of a play and was knocked to the ground by center, Bob Hyland. Devine was carted from the field with a broken leg and the Packers lost the game to the New York Giants, 42-40.
It wasn’t the only time a head coach has been felled on the sidelines. On September 13, 2008, during a game against the Michigan Wolverines, Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis—former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots—tore both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee after being knocked over by one of his own players during a punt return. “I feel like an athlete. First time in my life,” deadpanned Weis after the game, a 35-17 victory for the Fighting Irish.
Field of Seams
On August 13, 2001, a preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens was cancelled 35 minutes after its scheduled start because of countless ruts, bumps, dips and divots in the newly-installed NexTurf field at Philadelphia’s soon-to-be-replaced Veterans Stadium. The cancellation protects both teams’ players from injury but the assembled media aren’t so lucky. The venue’s jam-packed press elevator breaks down, trapping 18 members of the press for 40 minutes.
Seeing The Hole Field
NFL players have long been known to complain about less-than-perfect field conditions, but all involved had a right to complain on September 30, 2001, when the Green Bay Packers visited the Carolina Panthers. During the game, chunks of turf up to 18 inches long were torn up on Ericsson Stadium’s natural grass field, leaving six- to eight-inch holes in the playing surface. Numerous players were hurt during the contest, including Packers safety Antuan Edwards and Panthers rookie first-round draft choice, Dan Morgan, both of whom suffered season-ending leg injuries. The Panthers’ head groundskeeper had been fired for off-the-field transgressions earlier in the year.