In the pointless final minutes of the Cowboys' blowout win over the Buccaneers on Monday night, as Tom Brady squeezed out a few more throws before potentially hanging it up for good, Tampa Bay wide receiver Russell Gage suffered a scary injury apparently caused by a blow to his head and neck. Gage slipped while running his route, and as he went down, he got clubbed by the left arm of Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson, who was trying to break up the play. Immediately after the hit, before ESPN's cameras cut away, it looked like Gage tried and failed to get up from the turf multiple times.
Gage was down for several minutes, surrounded by both teammates and Cowboys, before he was put onto a backboard and taken off the field on the injury cart. The Bucs resumed the drive and scored a meaningless touchdown a few plays later.
Until late Tuesday morning, the only real update on Gage came from Bucs coach Todd Bowles in the postgame. "They took him to the hospital," he said. "Right now, he has a concussion. They're also testing him for potential neck injuries."
Bowles added, "His fingers were moving when he was down. I don't know about the rest."
The most recent news comes from a Buccaneers statement, which says, "Russell has had movement in all extremities and will continue to undergo additional testing today."
Though their injuries were very different, Gage staying down and being carted off unavoidably brought back too-fresh memories from Damar Hamlin's collapse earlier this month. You could see it on players' faces. "It was really tough—especially with what happened a couple weeks ago," Tampa linebacker Lavonte David said. "Russ is a great dude off the field and a great guy on the field. We definitely hope he's well."
But there's really no comparison here. Gage won't receive league-wide tributes and his recovery won't be treated as a national feel-good story. Already the news has taken a distant back seat to speculation about his quarterback's retirement. His injury wasn't shocking; it's a normal part of playing football, as were Jonah Williams's dislocated kneecap, or the absences of stars like Tua Tagovailoa, Lamar Jackson, and Mike Williams over the first weekend of the playoffs. But Gage's injury, and his looming recovery, feel more relevant to the average player than something as terrifying and anomalous as Hamlin's near-death experience. You're stuck on the ground, you're wheeled off the field, and then the game goes on.