Coach Dodges a Bullet

Frank Novak has been coaching football for more than 33 years at all levels, yet, he made a "sophomoric" mistake along the sideline during Green Bay's loss to the Minnesota Vikings Oct. 21 that could have been deadly. Novak absorbed a bullet in the form of a Rob Davis practice snap that had Novak thinking he was having a heart-attack.

"I knew I was going down," said Novak. "I put my hand down ..."

Fortunately, the 63-year-old Novak, Green Bay's special teams coach, survived the scary moment.

It was late in the second quarter inside the noisy Metrodome. The Packers had begun an offensive series and Davis, the team's snapper on punts and extra points, was taking his customary three snaps along the sideline to keep warm in case the Packers had to punt.

Novak was in the area where Davis was practicing his snaps to punter Josh Bidwell looking at a depth chart, trying to determine a personnel move, but walking at the same time.

"I walked in behind Rob Davis in a ‘no-fly zone,'" said Novak. "Friendly fire. I walk in there like a big dummy. The best way I can describe it: Friendly-fire dummy. I was preoccupied with my depth chart because I had two injured players playing on the punt team – Na'il Diggs and Nate Wayne – and I had to decide who I was going to send out there for our next punt, if that came about. I was preoccupied and I walked right in front of that ball."

The ball, at a high velocity, hit Novak squarely in the chest and knocked him to the ground. Many on the team thought he was having a heart-attack. The thought also went through Novak's mind.

"It was scary," said Novak, the oldest coach on the staff. "I thought it was going to precipitate maybe a heart-attack because my father died of a heart-attack and I've often thought about that."

The game was stopped briefly as Vikings trainers drove a golf cart to Green Bay's sideline to assist Novak from the field. Packers doctors Patrick McKenzie and John Gray wanted to immediately take Novak in the locker room for X-rays. Coach Mike Sherman left his position and spoke with Novak, who was sitting on the bench, but Novak refused to leave the sideline.

"I was coherent, I could speak, I was not nautious, I was OK," Novak said. "(The doctors) could see that, so they allowed me to go back (to coach)."

A few days after the game, Novak was still sore, but relieved that his injury amounted to a deep chest bruise and joked about the incident with reporters.

"It was a sophomoric thing for me to do," said Novak, in his second season with the Packers. "I've been in the league a long time and I've been with him. I know that's where he warms up. I just shouldn't have been there."

Davis says he probably will find a different spot to warm up during each offensive series. In the past he has always used an area of the bench where many of the offensive players stand during the game because there is more space.

"I think in the future I'm going to see if I can make some room behind the bench just to make it safe for everybody because I don't want to see anything like that happen again," Davis said.


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