Sweat’s injury on ‘routine’ play shows the NFL’s perilous nature

Posted on January 3, 2023

Author’s note: I wrote this story Monday morning about Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat and his injury. My plan was to publish the story Wednesday on iggles.com. Given the tragic events of Monday night with Bills safety Damar Hamlin, I decided to publish this story this morning. What struck me about Sweat’s injury is the same thing that struck me about Hamlin’s — both occurred on what appeared to be routine football plays.

We pray for both players’ recovery.

At 1:48 a.m. today, the Bills posted this on Twitter:

Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals. His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.


The play was routine, one that happens dozens of times in each and every NFL game.

With nine minutes to play in the first quarter on Sunday, Saints fullback Adam Prentice took a handoff and went into the middle of the line. From a standing position, Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat saw the play develop, charged down the line and plowed into the ball-carrier.

Sweat tackled Prentice above the left hip, recording a half-tackle along with Fletcher Cox. The tackle looked fairly routine, too.

Then, as is routine, the players on the ground stood up and headed toward their respective side of the line of scrimmage.

Except Josh Sweat. He remained face-first on the ground. He pounded his fists into the turf. You immediately looked toward his legs but there was no movement there.

Medical personnel dashed onto the field. Eagles defensive players quietly watched them work on Sweat. On their side of the line of scrimmage, the Saints players did the same.

The stadium was hushed. The allegiance of 69,796 mostly Eagles fans and a smattering of Saints fans went from partisan to united. In that moment, everyone was on Josh Sweat’s team.


Fans looked for any kind of movement — from Sweat or from anybody nearby who might signal that the player was OK. Then, you could see Sweat’s leg move.

Soon, a stretcher arrived on the field. Sweat was carefully placed on the gurney and driven off the field as Eagles fans chanted: “Sweat, Sweat, Sweat.”

Sweat gave them a thumbs-up, a signal that he had precious feeling in his extremities.

Sweat was taken to a hospital. Left behind were teammates and opponents, uncertain about Sweat’s future but living with the apprehension and fear of knowing that what happened to Sweat could someday happen to them.

And just like that, on a routine NFL play, a person’s life can dramatically change forever.


  • “We’ll take Josh one day at a time,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Monday. “I’m just really thankful that it wasn’t more serious.
  • “I know everybody in that stadium was holding their breath because any time that stretcher comes out, that’s tough to deal with.
  • “Josh was saying, ‘Hey, just let me get up, I can get up,’ this and that. The doctors obviously in that scenario have to make sure they go through all the right channels.
  • “I felt a little bit more at ease because of what Josh was saying out there. Fletch and him were having conversations. He kind of had his head down, Fletch was [saying], ‘Josh, you OK? Sweaty, you OK?’
  • “They were talking back and forth which really put me in a calmer state.”

Sweat isn’t an MD but he tweeted this at 9:47 p.m. Sunday — Thank you for your prayers and support I’ll be back this season! #GoBirds

Sweat’s prognosis is unknown. He was said to be undergoing tests on Monday.

Sweat is a 6-foot-5, 265-pounder. He is 25 years old, strong enough and talented enough to be an outstanding player for the Eagles.

If he can get hurt … 


  • “It’s always hard when a guy goes down, especially when you see him go down and at first he doesn’t move,” Cox said after the game.

Cox has seen more battles than most in the NFL. This is his 11th season. He has played 8,479 defensive snaps in his career, plus another 234 on special teams.

  • “He’s probably feeling better right now, but at the time, I think that the training staff did a really good job of making sure that they kept them in place, and just making sure nothing really was wrong with him,” Cox said.
  • “And he was smiling, so he’s in good spirits.”

Sweat is having a career season. The fifth-year pro from Florida State has a career-high 11 sacks and 48 tackles. He has played 587 defensive snaps and another 36 on special teams. In his career, he has played 2,083 defensive snaps.

Defensive ends don’t get many breathers. Nearly every play is violent and involves a collision with an equally large and athletic man. A former NFL player once described his job as being in 60 car accidents every Sunday.


Sweat was released from the hospital Sunday night, likely meaning the injury wasn’t catastrophic from a normal-life standpoint. For that, everyone is grateful. He might have dodged football’s worst bullet.

Fans watch the NFL in massive numbers. It is sport and it is entertainment, too. We watch and cheer and accept that injuries are part of the cost of doing business.

But they aren’t *our* injuries to *our* bodies. Fans should pause and appreciate more what these athletes do.

Players know their career can end on any snap, on any freak play, on any routine play because that is the nature of football.

They play because they love the game, they love the competition and they make life-changing money for themselves and their families. Football surges through their blood and DNA. They play through pain.

They are young and athletic. How can a 6-foot-5, 265-pound guy ever get hurt, they tell themselves.

Chuck Bausman Avatar
Written by
Chuck Bausman

Chuck Bausman is an Eagles writer for Iggles.com. Chuck formerly was the Executive Sports Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Executive Sports Editor of the Courier-Post in South Jersey. He learned how to cuss by watching Philly sports.

View all posts by Chuck Bausman