Etheridge was unable to move for several minutes after making a tackle near the line of scrimmage from his safety position. After being placed on a board by medical staff, he was taken from the field on a rolling stretcher to an ambulance and then the hospital.
"I was told the X-rays on his neck were negative and that he is able move around," Bates said in post-game comments after the victory over Ole Miss. "I plan to go to the hospital and see how he's doing."
Coach Gene Chizik praised Etheridge for being a "tough" player. Chizik said it would probably be Sunday before they could get a better update on Etheridge's status.
Cornerback Walt McFadden, who had two interceptions including one he returned for a 29-yard touchdown against the Rebels,, said the way Mike Slade and others stepped up in the defensive backfield it was like "Zac was still back there at safety."
As for his first appearance against the Rebels after playing his senior season at Olive Branch High School in Mississippi, Bates was pleased to beat the Rebels, but more pleased with the fact that Auburn played closer to what the Tigers' had earlier in the season in reeling off five straight wins before three losses in a row.
"We just needed to start making some plays," he said.
"We should have had more turnovers with dropped interceptions and not getting to that fumble on the opening kickoff, but we played better," said Bates who just missed an interception when a Jevan Snead pass bounced just in front of him.
But Bates did send Ole Miss' all-purpose back Dexter McCluster to the sideline for a few plays after making a hit. "He was off balance after getting tripped up and I was able to make the hit," Bates said.
McCluster, who had a 79-yard touchdown run while piling up 186 yards on the ground, was sorely missed, according to Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt.
"From the span where he was out, that really hurt us,' Nutt said. "Everything is built around him. It was spasms. You worry about how many touches you give him and how many times he can touch it with his weight and size. He got pretty good," Nutt said.