"All the tests we did (on Alex Ligon) were normal," Willard said. "I don't know when he'll return, but he'll play football again, and hopefully soon."
Ligon's teammate, fellow junior defensive end Abraham Wright, described the scary scene that unfolded on the practice fields Tuesday morning.
"I was in the play downfield," Wright said. "I turned around and he was on the ground. I'm thinking, ‘He's just got a stinger. He's gonna hop up.' So we scoot the play forward, and the trainers are down there checking on him. But three or four plays later, he's still in the exact same position.
"That's when it got a little scary," Wright continued. "Some of the players started going over there and the coaches were telling us to relax. We started praying. We prayed in the locker room. I've been praying all day."
Players were informed during meetings between the practices that Ligon's CAT scan came back normal. By the end of the second practice, the team was told the MRI was also normal.
Willard said Ligon received a blow to the side of the head on the play. Reportedly is was from a collision between Ligon and Lorenzo Sims. Ligon felt numbness in his hand and right foot, and pain in his neck, and that's why Ligon stayed on the ground after the play. Ligon never lost consciousness, according to Willard. But the training staff kept Ligon motionless until the ambulance arrived as a precautionary measure.
Willard called the injury a "burner" or "stinger," a common injury in football. According to orthopedics.com, "the exact mechanism of the injury is not well understood, but it is thought to be due to either stretch or compression, or a combination of both, of ...a network of nerves that has just exited the spinal cord."
Willard did not yet have a timetable on when Ligon might be able to return to practice. Team physician Eric McCarty must first examine Ligon, then make a determination. But Willard called Ligon's status "day to day."
The injury came just one day after it was determined receiver Blake Mackey tore his ACL in Sunday's practice, and will miss the 2005 season.
Ligon was expected to be released from the hospital and taken back to the Dal Ward Center at roughly 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Wright said he and his teammates looked forward to seeing him as soon as possible.
One longtime observer who was at the morning practice said he had never seen the team walk off the practice field in such a somber mood as they did following Ligon's ordeal.
The team, understandably, hadn't shaken that mood during Tuesday's afternoon practice, the sloppiest so far of camp. The team has a scheduled day off Wednesday.
"It's pretty scary," head coach Gary Barnett said of Ligon's injury. "All of a sudden you wonder, ‘What are you doing?' It'll take a while to get by that, and I think it's good we've got a day off tomorrow."