The Oakland Raiders had something more meaningful to celebrate on Monday than their first win under a new regime.
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was released from the hospital a day after being knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit and is expected to make a full recovery.
Heyward-Bey suffered a concussion and a strained neck on the scary hit from Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy that stopped the game Sunday for more than 10 minutes as Heyward-Bey had to regain consciousness before being carted off the field and taken to the hospital.
There was no penalty called on the play by the replacement officials.
Heyward-Bey spent the night in the hospital for observation and went home Monday, where he is resting. Coach Dennis Allen said Heyward-Bey sounded tired when he talked with him and there is no word on when he will be cleared to return to the field.
”The concussion is obviously the bigger issue than anything else right now,” Allen said. ”He’s a guy that we’re going to have to continue to evaluate and see where he’s at. We were all pleased to see that it wasn’t anything severe as far as neck injury or anything like that.”
The injury happened early in the fourth quarter of Oakland’s 34-31 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Heyward-Bey was running across the end zone to catch a pass from Carson Palmer when Mundy launched his body and lowered his helmet into Heyward-Bey’s facemask.
Heyward-Bey’s neck jerked violently and his head also crashed into the ground as he lost consciousness. The pass was incomplete.
Mundy said after the game that he did not intentionally lead with his helmet and felt bad that another player was injured.
Allen said he did not believe there was any intent to injure on Mundy’s part.
”It’s the game of football,” Allen said. ”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.”
Heyward-Bey’s eyes were shut for 10 minutes as trainers attended to him as he lay motionless. He was strapped to a table and placed on a cart. As the cart started to leave the field, he raised his right hand to roaring cheers.
”It was tough,” Allen said. ”I was actually out on the field watching everything as it took place. And it was a scary situation, and we’re blessed and we’re fortunate that he’s going to be fine. That’s part of this game that we play and it’s a tough part of the game, but we’re happy that Darrius is going to be fine.”
While Allen said it was a judgment call and did not blame the substitute officials who are calling games because the NFL has locked out the regulars, fans at the Coliseum started a derogatory chant aimed at the officials and some Raiders players complained.
”Obviously the refs, sometimes they’re going to make the calls, sometimes they’re not,” receiver Derek Hagan said after the game. ”I definitely don’t want to rip into them, but I really felt like it was one of those calls that should’ve been made. But they didn’t throw the flag, they missed, it. Sometimes they’re going to miss calls and it’s very unfortunate that a teammate of ours is down and injured.”
Heyward-Bey has nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown this season. With his status up in the air, Allen said the team may need to look at bringing in another receiver this week.
Heyward-Bey wasn’t the only Raider to suffer a concussion from a hit by Mundy in the game. On the game-winning drive, tight end Brandon Myers was knocked out with a legal hit from Mundy. Allen said Myers felt fine Monday but would have to go through the concussion protocol before he can return.