Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - This time it was different.
As Jets center Nick Mangold lay face down on the turf at Gillette Stadium after being hit hard late in Sunday's game against the Patriots, he experienced physical sensations he'd never felt before. While he wouldn't acknowledge Thursday that he feared he might be paralyzed because of a neck injury, he did admit that he felt fear. And that had never happened before.
"It was a scary time," Mangold said.
The 31-year-old center, who has missed only three games in his 10-year NFL career, quickly reverted to his witty and sarcastic sense of humor as he discussed his injury, mentioning his thoughts "once you get into the dark recesses of the mind."
And he insists he will play as soon as he is able, possibly in Sunday's game against the Raiders in Oakland. But for him to let his guard down for even a few seconds was an indication that, at least at some level, the injury had left him shaken.
He was asked if he'd ever recalled having that feeling during a game and conceded, "That's why I think it was as difficult as it was for me. It was a new phenomenon, so it was coming to grips with that."
When he was asked if he feared he might be paralyzed, Mangold said, "No, it happened so fast, so quick."
Yet he does admit there are symptoms that haven't yet subsided. "I feel things here and there," he said, although he was not specific.
Mangold has played through an assortment of pain and injury throughout his brilliant career, missing two games with an ankle problem in 2011 and sitting out another game last season, again with an ankle injury.
He is a remarkably resilient player and has been an absolutely indispensable part of the Jets' offensive line since he joined the team as a first-round pick in 2006.
If he can't play against the Raiders, the Jets will consider using Dakota Dozier or Wesley Johnson, neither of whom comes close to possessing Mangold's skill, veteran savvy or leadership.
"They're both getting a lot of reps," coach Todd Bowles said. "We'll decide which one [would play] when we break down the film. It's just feel. It's more mental adjustments and identifying people and who is the better matchup for this game as far as who they're going against."
It will be a huge hole to fill, although Mangold holds out hope he'll be able to play. And Bowles has left open the possibility that Mangold will play even if he doesn't practice all week.
Mangold has spent the week preparing as if he'll play, but also helping his understudies in case one of them is pressed into service.
"Just be a steady presence," he said of helping Dozier and Johnson. "See different looks, answer any questions they might have but not step on anyone's toes."
If the game were to be played Friday, could Mangold go?
"I don't know. Luckily, it's not tomorrow, it's on Sunday," he said.
Like just about every player in this league, Mangold's survival instinct requires a certain level of denial, of pushing back the fear that goes along with participating in such a physical and often violent sport. It's why he won't ever let himself believe he can't play. Or won't play.
"I feel like if I'm not laying there bleeding out that I'll be able to play at any point in time," Mangold said of his mindset. "Without that mentality, I don't think I'd be where I am."
But this injury took some more time to process. It's his neck, not his ankle, so anyone would have more concern. But tests earlier in the week were negative, which was good news.
Asked after his meeting with reporters if there had been any structural damage, Mangold smiled and flashed that ever-present sense of humor. "That's what the negative means, Bob," he cracked.
Good player. Good guy.
Good to see him getting better after a moment that briefly jolted his football mortality.