How soon we forget that just five months ago, football was the furthest thing from defensive tackle Mike Patterson's mind.
Patterson experienced a seizure on the practice fields of Lehigh University during a training camp practice on the morning of August 3. The intense scene was frightening for Patterson, who is one of the longest-tenured players on this team, but a fortunate one as well. Surrounded by the best medical care doctors discovered that Patterson had a condition called a Brain AVM, which is a congenital tangle of blood vessels.
After visiting with four different doctors who specialize in brain AVM cases and a seizure specialist, Patterson was cleared to play football and returned just 17 days after his seizure. To fix the brain AVM, Patterson has to undergo surgery, but he decided to postpone it until after the season so he could be with his teammates.
"Guys were all worried about me when I came back and were making sure I was all right," said Patterson. "It sucks that it happened, but it feels good knowing that guys back here care about you and they really think about you."
The former first-round pick has been one of the most reliable players of the Andy Reid era. When drafted out of USC, Patterson was best suited to play in a one-gap scheme where he could attack upfield and wreak havoc in the backfield. The Eagles needed to improve their run defense so in 2007 they switched to a two-gap scheme which requires the defensive tackles to read and react to the play.
Patterson has been criticized for not posting amazing sack totals, but the Eagles' run defense is sixth in the league since 2007. When the Eagles brought on new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, Patterson had to adjust, once again, back to an attacking style.
Despite the alignment change and seizure episode, Patterson turned in what head coach Andy Reid deemed the best season of the defensive tackle's career. Patterson was second on the defensive line with 66 tackles, tied for third on the team with 24 quarterback hurries and posted 2.5 sacks, which was the most since 2007.
He earned a vote for The Associated Press All-Pro team. The play of newly acquired defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole got most of the publicity, but Patterson's teammates never forgot the sacrifice he made to be a part of the team. Patterson was named the Eagles' recipient of the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award, which "honors those National Football League players who exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage."
"I feel proud that my teammates voted for me, so I feel very fortunate and appreciated," Patterson said.
Head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder holds the Ed Block Courage Award in very high regard. Burkholder declared that Patterson was "one of the most deserving candidates" to receive the honor in his 19 years in the NFL.
"His courage to play with this condition and to put off any further procedures until the offseason shows his commitment to his teammates and to the Philadelphia Eagles," Burkholder said.
With the season in the books, Patterson said that he expects to have the surgery to correct the brain AVM before the end of January. Patterson said that the recovery time ranges from a month to six months, but stated he "will be back before we know it."
"As long as I get it taken care of, I can come back out here and be a happy camper," Patterson said.
Patterson was in the spotlight more than ever because of his medical condition. Next year, he can get back in the spotlight with his play on the field.
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