OAKLAND — Some kind of sign, that's all the Raiders wanted. That's all anybody wanted. Finally, as the motorized cart made it way off the field, Darrius Heyward-Bey raised his right hand from the stretcher onto which he was strapped and gave the thumbs-up.
The sellout crowd, hushed by the violent collision that had left Heyward-Bey laying motionless in the end zone, erupted into applause.
"With that hand coming up, that's inspiration right there," said one of Heyward-Bey's teammates, Jon Condo. "We broke the huddle down: 'DHB, let's get this one for him.' "
That's exactly what they did, scoring 10 points after the injury to complete a 34-31 comeback victory Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
By then, Heyward-Bey was at Edens Medical Center, where he was expected to spend the night. He was in stable condition, according to a team spokesman. The Raiders had announced during the game that Heyward-Bey sustained a neck injury, but coach Dennis Allen said after the game that it was a concussion.
"What I know right now is he had a concussion and I'll leave it at that," Allen said.
Heyward-Bey suffered his injury early in the fourth quarter as he attempted to catch a pass in the endzone from quarterback Carson Palmer. As two Steelers defenders closed in from either side, Ryan Mundy's helmet caught Heyward-Bey on the chin, and causing him to hit the turf head first. The Raiders said he was knocked unconscious.
"When I saw him go down, I just started praying immediately. I know a lot of other guys did, too," Raiders running back Mike Goodson said.
One of those praying for Heyward-Bey was Mundy, the man who hit him.
"I didn't go in there trying to hit him with my helmet," Mundy said. "Things like that happen so fast. He may have come down to the level of my helmet. I have to see the replay, I don't know."
The play drew no penalty flags, a fact that is likely to incite more talk about the quality of officiating with the regular refs locked out by the league. But that wasn't at the forefront of anybody's thoughts Sunday.
"We were all in shock, just kneeling down and hoping for the best," said Goodson.
Goodson experienced a similar scare in training camp, suffering a neck injury that required immobilization and hospitalization. Goodson was released the same day after tests and observation.
This wasn't the first time for Heyward-Bey, either. He was carted off the field, immobilized, during a game against the Minnesota Vikings last November.
Before Heyward-Bey was carted away, quarterback Carson Palmer and a few other Raiders were able to approach the gurney. Allen was among them.
"He was able to talk a little bit," Allen said. "He was able to move his extremities, so that was a good sign."
But for everybody else, including the crowd of 62,373, there was no sign until Heyward-Bey gave the thumbs-up.
"You couldn't see him. They had him blocked off, with the cart in the way. You got to take a knee and send a prayer out to him, pray for his safety," Condo said. "When he raised his arm, that relieved a lot, it helped a lot emotionally on our sideline, that he's all right."