T.J. Cottrell was simply pursuing a football dream, not any different than hundreds of other professional football player hopefuls.
T.J., the son of Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, had been trying to hone his football skills in NFL Europe. He started the season with the Frankfurt Galaxy and more recently started playing with the Rhein Fire. That switch in teams, and T.J.'s disposition to be a peacemaker, cost him dearly.
Before the season began, the staff of the Rhein Fire warned their players about the bars and clubs that were off-limits – places that could become far rougher than any football field. Because T.J. joined the Fire after their season began, he didn't receive that speech.
So when an unsuspecting T.J., who attended Vikings spring and summer camps last year as a tight end, and a teammate ended up at one of the off-limits bars, T.J. saw trouble coming and wanted to avoid it, according to his father.
As T.J. was trying to escort his teammate out of the bar, the teammate turned and spit at the bouncer, Ted said. T.J. grabbed the teammate to take him out of the bar and the teammate ran back into the club and punched the bouncer.
"Now these guys come out with billy clubs and baseball bats, and T.J. looks around and says, ‘What's going on?' Everybody else is running," Ted said. "This is one of those Turkish mafia places – a bad, bad place. It's been off-limits for 10 years."
Unfortunately, T.J. never got that message from the Rhein Fire. Instead, he took a beating.
"He got whacked on the face," Ted said of his son as the father's voice grew somber. "He's got a fractured cheek bone and some small facial bones broken on his right side. He needs surgery. Hopefully they will fly him back here to the United States in the next day. I was going to go over there in the next day or so if they don't fly him back. The league said they'd send me over.
"From talking with the trainers, it sounds like he's going to need some plastic surgery."
Fortunately, T.J. suffered no brain damage in the altercation and he will be OK, Ted said.
Better communication would have kept T.J. out of the situation, but if he hadn't been concerned with his teammate he might have escaped without incident. Now, his future is on hold while the Cottrells deal with his recovery.
"He's talking," Ted said. "All the security people that investigated it and every one of the eyewitnesses said the same thing: He was being Charlie Good Guy, being a peacemaker.
"Bad things happen to good people."
Cottrell Dealing With Family Emergency
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