Mike Patterson's journey is remarkable, and the fact that he is on the verge of returning to an NFL game is icing on his cake. Patterson, you know, had a seizure during the 2011 training camp and in the next several frightening moments, as his teammates gathered around him praying for him to wake up, stand up, and walk off the field, the concern went far beyond football.
The good news is that Patterson has received A-plus care from the moment he went down and the team's outstanding athletic training staff attended to him, got him to the hospital and brought back the diagnosis: cerebral arteriovenous malformation.
Patterson, remarkably, was able to play the 2011 season before he underwent brain surgery in January. Not only the summer did anyone really know how long it would take to heal enough to be cleared once again for game play.
"I just had to take it one day at a time and have faith in my doctors," said Patterson, a low-key man with a good sense of humor who would rather not be the center of attention. "I missed playing. I missed the guys. But I know that if would get back out there again."
Monday marks, if all goes as expected between now and then, Patterson's first action of 2012. It won't matter, honestly, how many snaps Patterson plays or, truly, how many tackles he makes in his season debut. His story is one of good health and full medical clearance and a normal, wonderful life ahead.
Because, truth be told, those suspended minutes in time two training camps ago remain vivid for the fear inspired watching Patterson on his back and not moving.
Now, though, we can welcome back Patterson and pray that there are no lingering ramifications from the injury. The Eagles listened to the medical experts the whole way here, and Patterson continued to prepare for the moment he would be cleared by working in the weight room, running on his own, watching film and exercising patience.
"That was probably the biggest thing for me," said Patterson. "I knew I couldn't rush it. It was beyond my control, so it wasn't frustrating to me. I knew this day would come."
And so it has. Patterson has always played the game with love and respect and while he isn't a flashy player, he is a productive, technically sound defensive tackle who has been on the field since the Eagles made him a first-round draft pick in 2005.
From a football standpoint, the Eagles get a boost with Patterson in the lineup. How they work the rotation -- the team also has Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton at tackle -- remains to be seen. The team is unlikely to keep five tackles active for Monday night's game.
At his best, Patterson occupies blockers and plays well against the run, and he offers some push inside against the pass. Patterson has always been durable and strong inside and as the Eagles search for answers to make their defensive line more productive, his presence should aid the cause.
Ultimately, though, the really important story is that Patterson is completely healthy and out of harm's way. We hear "brain injury" and "football player" and fear the worst. Patterson never considered stepping away from the game, not when he understood the full extent of his brain injury. It had nothing to do with collisions and the violence of the game of football.
Welcome Mike Patterson back to the football field for this game and know that his return means much more than tackles and sacks. It's been a long road, a challenging one and certainly scary, and for a man who loves football so much and who plays the game the right way, it's a moment to be happy that he is doing something that means so much to him.