INDIANAPOLIS — With the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd silent and the Indianapolis Colts' team medical personnel hard at work, Jack Doyle's mind drifted away from Indy for a moment.
As he watched his fellow tight end, Brandon Williams, down on the turf, almost completely motionless after suffering a head injury on a punt play in the second quarter of Thursday's game against the Denver Broncos, Doyle just knew Williams' family would be among those tuned in to this primetime Thursday Night Football matchup.
"Scared. Worried. Tough," Doyle listed off when asked about his initial thoughts as he watched Williams be treated on the turf. "You start thinking about him, thinking about his family watching on TV. You just think about all of that."
Just 10 days prior to Thursday's game, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was rushed to a Cincinnati-area hospital and had to undergo spinal surgery after he lowered his head on a tackle attempt against the Cincinnati Bengals, so it would be hard not to assume a similar fate for Williams, who was reportedly diagnosed with congenital spinal stenosis — or a narrowed spine — during his college career at the University of Oregon and was forced to quit playing football for the time being.
Williams was placed on a stretcher and then carted off and transported to a nearby hospital, but the news from that point on has been nothing but positive and encouraging.
First, the Colts announced Williams was being evaluated for a head injury, and that they did not believe he had suffered any sort of injury to his neck or spine. Then, the team announced Williams, who was placed on the stretcher and hospitalized for precautionary reasons, was awake and alert, he had no neck pain and he had movement in his limbs.
Then the best news came after the game, when head coach Chuck Pagano announced Williams, who was diagnosed with a concussion, had been released from the hospital and was back at Lucas Oil Stadium under the care of team medical personnel.
"We erred, obviously, on the side of caution and rightfully so in taking care of him," Pagano said. "Our docs, trainers and everybody involved that responded to get him taken care of on the field and get
him the proper medical attention and get to him to the hospital, get him evaluated."
Even still, seeing your immobilized teammate being loaded up onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital with a head injury is certainly something you never get used to.
"It was sad. He's a huge part of our offense," quarterback Jacoby Brissett said of Williams. "Praying for him and wish he was out there with us. Hope he's okay. It sucks when you see one of your brothers go down."
Adam Vinatieri, who has seen a lot in his 22-year NFL career, also had Williams and his family in his thoughts after Thursday night's injury.
"Yeah, obviously football is a contact sport and there are injuries and stuff, but when one of your teammates gets carted off on a back board—I'm hoping it's a precautionary thing and I'm hoping that he's doing all right," Vinatieri said. "It's a scary thing for all of us and I'm sure it's scary for his family as well."
Those across the league also expressed their concerns and well wishes for Williams on Thursday night: