Jordan Gross remembers everything that happened Sunday when he was knocked unconscious against Atlanta. And this was different.
“I get hit on my head all the time,” said Gross, the Carolina Panthers' offensive tackle who suffered a Grade3 concussion when he was hit in the head by the knee of Falcons linebacker Michael Boley in the first quarter of the Panthers' 24-9 victory at Bank of America Stadium. “I've been kicked in the head, stepped on – everything you can be. It was just a random situation, I think. There's nothing to blame except that it's a contact sport.”
The injury will likely keep Gross out of this week's home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, breaking his six-year string of 84 consecutive starts in the regular season (plus seven in the playoffs).
Gross was actually still groggy from the previous play, when he also had taken a knee to the area just above his left ear – this one from Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking.
“I was kind of dizzy from that,” said Gross, who spoke publicly about the injury for the first time Thursday. “On the next play, I fell down and Boley's knee hit me right in the same spot.
“I didn't have any pain or anything. It was just a perfect shot in the right spot. And it put me to sleep.”
Gross lay face down and motionless for several minutes. Several teammates and Falcons players stood by, and at least one – Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad – knelt in prayer.
“I think I was the lucky one, because I didn't see what happened,” said Gross.
“Whenever you see somebody down and he's not moving, you think ‘neck injury.' It's a spooky deal.
“I'm by no means Superman, but I've got a pretty good history of being in every play. So everybody knew that for me go stay down, something's going on.”
When Gross came to, he saw team physician Dr. Pat Connor and assistant athletic trainer Reggie Scott. As the cobwebs began to clear, he also saw a stretcher that had been brought out to carry him off the field.
Gross waved the stretcher away, but allowed himself to be taken off the field on a motorized cart. He acknowledged the crowd, which was by now applauding, with several fist pumps.
“That was kind of cheesy, doing the fist pump,” said Gross.
“But I felt fine. But when I got into the tunnel, I almost passed out again because I was so tired from pumping my fist.”
Gross said he was then given tests to determine how severe the injury might be. He did OK on the mental tests; the visual ones, not so well.
“They asked, Where are you, what date is it?” Gross said. “I roughly knew.
“That's normal for me. What date is it? Sunday. But with the ‘how many fingers,' that surprised them. My vision was pretty bad.”
Gross said those symptoms have gone away. He's not sure when he'll be able to play again and will leave that decision up to doctors and Panthers coaches.
Gross has been watching his teammates practice this week and expects to do some jogging today. It's unlikely he'll play Sunday against the Chiefs, although he's officially listed as day-to-day.
Coach John Fox said this week that he would err on the side of caution with Gross. Also, the American Academy of Neurology's guidelines recommend a two-week wait before returning to play for an athlete who loses consciousness for a matter of minutes.
That means Gross could also miss the Panthers' game Oct.12 in Tampa Bay, which is shaping up to be a key NFC South showdown.
Those would be the first two games Gross would miss since he was drafted by the Panthers in the first round of the 2003 draft out of Utah. Safety Mike Minter, who retired in 2006, holds the Panthers record with 91 straight regular-season starts.
“(The streak) is something you're proud of,” Gross said. “Since I've been here, the offensive line has either been a saint or a whipping boy, depending on how the game's gone.
“The one thing that's been consistent is that I've always been out there playing.”
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