By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — There hasn’t been much to like about the 2012 Eagles. It’s been a frustrating, disappointing, teeth-gnashing nine-game miasma of recurring mistakes. It’s also turned into a countdown as to the final games of Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure in an exhaustive 3-6 march that can’t end fast enough.
But underneath it all, amid the “Fire Andy” chants, and the myriad complaints about the play calling and misuse of timeouts, there’s been a pretty amazing story that’s been brewing that goes far beyond wins and losses and the toy department that sometimes professional sports is. It deals with something real and positive in what’s been otherwise a tattered season for the Eagles.
Mike Patterson wears a perpetual smile these days. He can’t help it. The eight-year NFL veteran out of USC lines his index finger along the wavy scar hidden by his hair. It’s a reminder of the life-threatening ordeal Patterson survived after suffering a seizure during the 2011 training camp.
Still, Patterson appeared in 15 games last season, and then underwent brain surgery in January to address an AVM, an arteriovenous malformation, basically to untangle a knot of blood vessels behind his right eye.
This season looked doubtful, too.
But Patterson made his first start against New Orleans and played again against Dallas last Sunday.
Sure, Patterson wants to win. He wants another shot at the playoffs. But there is something much deeper, more human involved in the fact that Patterson just being on the field is a victory in itself.
“I was told this could happen at any time in my life, I was just fortunate that it happened then, because it could have happened when I was playing, when I was driving, it could have happened anywhere and who knows what would happened to me,” said Patterson, the Eagles’ first-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft, the 31st pick overall. “I coped with it. It was something that was dormant for a long time.”
Patterson remembers little of the day he collapsed. The first group just came off the field and Patterson was going over some plays and technique with defensive line coach Jim Washburn. He recalls looking up … then waking up in an ambulance. He doesn’t even remember feeling his fall.
“I blanked out talking to Wash and remember looking up at the EMT guy in the ambulance,” Patterson said. “No one knew what it was at the time and after looking at the x-rays, they found out I had a seizure. It could have been fatal; it was that close, we just didn’t know what triggered it that day.”
He knows the date, January 22, 2012. He knows it because it’s the date he underwent brain surgery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Surgeons cut open a square on the right side of his skull. He’s recovered well—he’s not missing a vowel or any side effects.
“I’m fortunate to land where I have,” Patterson said. “My first concern was whether or not I’d play again. But I didn’t put too much emphasis on it, because no doctor told me I’d never play again. I never really considered I wouldn’t play again. There were options for me. I lost a little weight, but it wasn’t too dramatic.”
Patterson wanted to play immediately this year, but doctors told him he wouldn’t be ready for six months. Then the time came on Monday night, November 5 against New Orleans that ended an arduous journey. He got in 10 to 15 plays.
He went from talking to his coach, to finding himself in an ambulance, to watching a good portion of this season slide away. But Patterson doesn’t look at what he missed. He looks at what he’s gained, a newer, broader scope of playing again.
“I’m excited and very happy, just happy to get out there and play,” Patterson said. “I had to be patient with my body and make sure I was rested and healed. I had to sit back and wait my chance. There was a lot of anxiety, but anyone that has a passion and wants to play football; they want to be out there playing. I love the game. I wanted to play.”
Patterson sees his experience as a gift. He relishes every moment, every second he gets to play.
So as the losses pile up, and the collective angst of the city grows louder with each defeat, the Eagles can glean something from 2012, for giving someone a chance to play and more forward,
“I’m blessed and everything means much more to me, a lot more now than I can play,” Patterson said. “I still have a chance to play and live my dream, a chance to make a difference.”