Avonte Maddox said he made a one-handed interception for a touchdown in practice Wednesday. It was kind of a big deal for a player who couldn’t move after teammate Andrew Sendejo accidentally blasted him on Sept. 26 at Green Bay.
“That felt good,” Maddox said after practice, as he and the Eagles prepared for Sunday’s home game against the Bears.
“It’s a good feeling to be back out on the field, because you never know . … The whole time I wasn’t playing, I was like, ‘Damn, I wish I was out there.’ When you’re out there, you take it for granted. Now, I’m just cherishing being back, cherishing it all, and having fun.”
Fans watched Nigel Bradham’s game-clinching, end-zone interception that night on TV. So did Maddox, long after it happened. During the pivotal play, the Eagles’ nickel corner was lying on a stretcher, his neck immobilized, as he was being hustled into an ambulance at Lambeau Field.
Maddox went down with a minute and six seconds remaining in the Eagles’ 34-27 victory, Sendejo’s helmet slamming into his jaw as they made a tackle. The game was halted for several minutes, as teammates and Packers prayed for Maddox, who joked with them -- once movement and feeling returned. In fact, Maddox said he knew he was more or less OK by the time medical personnel reached him on the field, but neck injuries and concussions – both of which he sustained – are taken very seriously these days.
Two plays later, Maddox’s replacement, Craig James, jumped a slant and deflected the Aaron Rodgers pass into the air, and Bradham tracked it down.
“When I was on that stretcher and heading out, the only thing on my mind was, ‘Oh, I gotta get back in the game. I want to play in the game.’ And they said, ‘No, you gotta go to the hospital,’ ” Maddox said. Attendants told him, “Just relax, everything will be fine," he said. They were "keeping me calm.”
Maddox said he listened to the crowd, trying to figure out what was happening in the game.
“And all I heard going through the tunnel was screaming. I’m like, [bleep]. They probably just scored. I’m like, ‘Somebody check the score on their phone.’ They’re like, ‘There’s no signal.' But somebody said, ‘I see us running the other way.’ When we got to the hospital, I found out we intercepted it.”
Maddox said not being able to move on the field for a few seconds was “definitely scary,” but “once I got the feeling back and realized I wasn’t paralyzed, I was like, all right. I’m good.”
Maddox wasn’t at the hospital long; he flew home with the team that night. His phone was flooded with texts, but he couldn’t deal with that in the immediate aftermath.
“It took me a while to get back to everybody. Maybe a few weeks,” he said. “You text somebody, and it goes to the top. So, everything keeps dropping down. I’m like, ‘I can’t keep doing this. It’s making my head hurt, and I’m already concussed.’ So I just hoped they would text me later.”
He said he has watched replays of the hit. Sendejo came in from the side, helmet first, as Maddox wrestled tight end Robert Tonyan down at the Eagles’ 7-yard-line after a catch that gave the Packers first-and-goal. As penance, Sendejo has agreed to hug Maddox for five seconds before each practice and game, he said.
“I watched it a couple of times. It looked a little brutal. It was a good hit," Maddox said. "But you can’t fault him. He’s out there playing just like I’m playing. I was never mad at him. I’d never be mad at him. He was trying to make a play, just like I was. It’s a shame it had to happen that way. But I’m still walking, and he’s still giving me my hugs.”
The week after the hit, Sendejo said he hoped Maddox recovered quickly.
“There’s plays that happen like that. You just hope that they don’t end up with the result like that,” Sendejo said. “But, sometimes you can’t really do anything about a bang-bang play.”
Maddox was a fourth-round rookie revelation last season, a savvy 5-foot-9, 184-pound playmaker from Pitt who filled in at corner, both inside and out, and at safety, as the Eagles’ secondary went through a cascade of injuries even worse than this season’s.
Like some other Eagles, Maddox wasn’t playing to last year’s standard when he went down, but there’s a good chance he will replace disappointing nickel corner Sidney Jones against the Bears. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are the outside starters.
Maddox, 23, wore a neck brace for weeks after the injury. He said he won’t play any differently when he returns.
“I wouldn’t put myself out there if there was any danger. [Doctors] were 100 percent on board with [me returning], and that’s a good thing,” he said. “One thing you don’t want to play around with is your neck. There’s a lot of neck injuries that can sit you down and prevent you from doing a lot of things.
“They said whenever I’m comfortable, whenever I feel like I’m able to go out there and perform and be out there with no scare, no worries, that’s when I’d be able to come back. So, they put it all up to me. And, now, I’m good and ready to play.”