What Bill Belichick, Patriots players said about Isaiah Bolden’s injury, decision to end preseason game early

Patriots

“I think everybody acted swiftly and it was the right call in this situation.”

New England Patriots players react as teammate Isaiah Bolden is tended to after getting injured against the Green Bay Packers during the second half of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis.
Matthew Slater and other Patriots players praised the decision to end Saturday’s preseason game early. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

All of the gains and setbacks that played out on the gridiron at Lambeau Field Saturday night meant very little in the wake of a scary injury involving rookie Isaiah Bolden.

The Patriots cornerback needed to be placed on a stretcher and carted off with 10:29 left in the fourth quarter after inadvertently colliding with teammate Calvin Munson while trying to break up a Packers passing play.

In a team statement, the Patriots announced that Bolden “had feeling in all his extremities, but has been taken to a local hospital for further tests and evaluation.”

After Bolden was carted off, referee John Hussey announced that the remaining 10:29 of game time was going to be suspended.

New England ended the game with a 21-17 victory, but Bill Belichick spent little time focusing on Saturday’s game during his brief postgame press conference.

“The last situation, in the bigger picture, overrode the game,” Belichick said. “All saying a prayer for Isaiah. … Appreciated the way the league handled it. I think that was the right thing to do. … Kind of regroup and talk about the game later. But that’s kind of where things are for right now.”

Patriots longtime captain Matthew Slater echoed his coach’s sentiment in terms of putting all of their focus on the health of Bolden, rather than the results of a preseason contest.

“I think right now our primary concern is Isaiah, his wellbeing,” Slater said. “Our whole team’s praying for him. Just hoping that things aren’t as serious as they seem.”

Despite the optics of Bolden being carted off the field, Mac Jones said postgame that the 23-year-old defensive back seems to be feeling better.

“That was definitely tough to see Isaiah go down like that and just hard to realize the whole situation …. Just want to be there for one another, want to be there for him, his family,” Jones said. “I’ve known him since high school. We played 7-on-7 football together. So definitely one of my brothers, but sounds like he’s doing a lot better from what they’re telling us, so that’s awesome.”

“That’s great news,” safety Jabrill Peppers said of the positive updates on Bolden. “But we’ll feel even better when he’s back with us.”

On what ended up being the final play of the game, Bolden tried to close in on Packers wideout Malik Heath as he reeled in a catch from QB Sean Clifford. As Munson also ran toward Health, Bolden collided headfirst with his teammate, dropping immediately to the turf.

“It looked like just one of those collision hits, those freak hits that you see on rare occasions in this league,” Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills said. “You hate to see it.”

As New England’s medical staff began to treat Bolden, both Patriots and Packers players took a knee on the field.

Several of Bolden’s teammates had tears in their eyes as the promising rookie was placed on the stretcher and loaded onto the cart.

“It brought up that Damar [Hamlin] feeling and it’s just scary,” Kendrick Bourne said. “That’s just how it feels. So it’s just praying for him, man, that he’s okay.”

While almost the entire Patriots roster gathered around Bolden as the cart started to make its way off the field, Belichick conferred with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, Slater and Hussey.

Just minutes later, the game was officially suspended.

Postgame, Slater praised the decision to call off the game, especially in terms of his longtime coach’s role in the decision.

“I really appreciate what Coach Belichick did tonight,” Slater said. “He took the initiative on that and look — this is not the AFC Championship. We’re not playing for records. This is preseason game two. We have an injury like that, it affects a lot of guys in a lot of different ways. And clearly our team was shaken by what happened. And I think Coach made the right decision.

“I think that was tremendous leadership by him. I have to say, honestly, that was one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a guy who’s played for him for, now, 16 years to see what he did. There was no hesitation. I appreciate Coach LaFleur as well for standing with him on that. I think everybody acted swiftly and it was the right call in this situation.”

“I think it’s probably the right move to do that,” Jones added. “And just everything revolves around him and how his family’s doing and, and all that stuff. Definitely felt like we weren’t in a good headspace — nobody was on either side of the ball.”

A 2023 seventh-round draft pick out of Jackson State University, Bolden has already logged regular reps in New England’s secondary during his first NFL training camp and preseason. The 6-foot-2-inch corner has already fit in well in Foxborough, according to Slater. 

“He’s been a joy to be around,” Slater said of Bolden. “He’s a young man with a lot of talent, but he’s a young man that’s always got a smile on his face, is always positive, is always bringing great energy, great effort to practice. And he’s been like a sponge.

“I mean, we’ve asked him to do a lot for our football team and he’s been eager and excited to do it. Obviously I’m biased — he’s a JSU Tiger. So I love having a HBCU guy here, especially one that went to my parent’s school. Yeah, he’s been great. All the guys love him. He’s fit into our locker room seamlessly.”

As Slater and the rest of the Patriots await more updates on Bolden’s status, the New England special-teams ace acknowledged that Saturday’s events serve as a sobering lesson of the dangers that can present themselves out on the football field.

“It’s a reminder of the fragility of life,” Slater said. “It’s not something that we spend a lot of time thinking about. But the reality is, all of us are going to have to wrestle with that at some point in time — every person that’s ever walked the face of this earth. So I think it’s unfortunate that it happens in this context, in this setting. Because this is meant to be a joyful, celebratory experience.

“We’re playing a game. We’re doing what we love, we’re entertaining people. People are getting enjoyment out of our game. But it’s a reminder that things can turn on a dime. And it’s something that you have to put out of your head as a player, because you can’t go out there with fear and hesitation. But the reality is — things happen in life and certainly things happen in football all the time.”

Originally posted 2023-08-20 04:44:23.


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