GREEN BAY – The hit knocked the air out of the thousands huddled into Lambeau Field for the Packers’ preseason opener against Philadelphia two weeks ago.
Amidst stunned silence, rookie receiver Malachi Dupre lay motionless on the field after taking a hit from Eagles safety Tre Sullivan following his 8-yard catch at the start of the fourth quarter.
With his brother and cousin in attendance, Dupre raised a hand to tell the crowd he was OK, but looking back, he admits he didn’t come to until the sirens woke him up during the ambulance ride.
Dupre was diagnosed with a concussion but had full range of motion in his extremities. The realization his neck was OK provided Dupre a sense of calm on the way to a local hospital.
“From the panic and scary moment of waking up in the ambulance and not knowing why you are there to feeling everything and being able to move, that was relieving,” said Dupre, who returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since the incident.
“Even before them telling me all the tests and everything went well, I felt myself and felt normal. When I got to the hospital that night and was relaxing, my teammates visited me.”
His brother and cousin were the first to arrive. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy soon followed with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and his wife, and fellow rookie Montay Crockett and his girlfriend also visiting throughout the night.
Dupre wore a neck brace at the hospital and stayed overnight, but it was only for precautionary reasons. The rookie seventh-round pick out of LSU was overwhelmed by the show of support from his teammates and coaches who visited him.
“It means a lot for me,” Dupre said. “Aaron was the first one there. It surprised me a lot, but that’s just the type of love we create every day with each other in this locker room. When something like that occurs, it actually shows you how much everyone cares for each other. It’s unfortunate it had to be a scenario like that, but it showed me a lot.”
The 6-foot-2, 196-pound receiver was released from the hospital the next morning and OK to participate in meetings back at Lambeau Field as he started the concussion protocol.
Dupre smiles when admittedly he took a few teammates by surprise, but he didn’t experience any symptoms related to concussions. He still was held out from practice for 1½ weeks before being cleared to return from the protocol on Tuesday.
Receivers coach Luke Getsy doesn’t believe the incident will affect Dupre’s mentality on the field whatsoever. Based on what he saw in practice, Dupre looks like the same hungry kid vying for a spot on the Packers’ 53-man roster.
“That kid loves football and the day he came back in that meeting room, he was ready to rock-and-roll,” Getsy said. “Honestly, it probably would’ve crossed my mind the very next morning, but when I saw him in this building and the way he was bouncing around ready to go again, I feel good about him.”
Dupre said returning to the field was a relief for him. He felt good getting a chance to catch passes again and looks forward to playing in Saturday night’s third preseason game in Denver.
He’s watched the hit “a hundred times.” His brother, Matt, was actually filming the play at the time Dupre was injured. While he doesn’t have an opinion on the legality of the hit, Dupre said it was a reminder of how fortunate he was to walk away from it.
“It just showed me this game is very, very valuable to me and it could be taken away so fast,” Dupre said. “I was telling my teammates. You always tell everyone you’re only one play away from never being able to play again, but until something like that happens and it was almost one play away from me, it doesn’t mean anything to you.
“Now that it happened, I’ll always appreciate every play and opportunity I get whether it’s practice or in games. That play was an eye-opener. I’m just very thankful to be back.”
Cornerback Damarious Randall also was cleared from the concussion he sustained on a crack-back block from Eagles receiver Bryce Treggs.
“We’ve got a great, great staff here and I just took it day-by-day,” Randall said. “Just getting back in shape with my team, just happy to be out there flying around today.”
Running back Ty Montgomery also returned to the field Tuesday after sitting out last week with a lower-leg injury. He rested during the latter portion of practice, but running backs coach Ben Sirmans said Montgomery was ready to do more until being told to “chill out.”