Redskins

Florida's Ball 'values each moment' after scare

Florida's Ball 'values each moment' after scare

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) It started as the ``worst headache ever.''

And before Florida linebacker Neiron Ball knew the diagnosis, the pain had gotten so severe that he couldn't look down and was begging for medication.

``I can't really explain it,'' Ball said. ``The closest thing I can think is somebody just smushing my brain.''

Doctors determined that blood vessels in his brain were tangled and ruptured, causing bleeding that had to be stopped by radiation surgery. Ball still remembers his prevailing thought as he waited in the hospital.

``Forget football. I'm thinking about living,'' he said.

Now, more than 20 months later, Ball is back on the field and playing a key role for the seventh-ranked Gators (8-1). He has nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception - numbers that mean little compared to all he's been through.

``I just want to go hard every moment in life because you never know when that moment can be taken away,'' Ball said. ``I value each moment.''

Ball, a third-year sophomore from Jackson, Ga., was one of the team's top special teams player in 2010. His tackling skills were evident and his upside was seemingly limitless.

The following February, though, he started feeling pressure in his neck and then a dull ache in his head while working out. He went to trainers and ended up in the hospital.

He was diagnosed with arteriovenous maliformation - a serious condition that needed immediate attention.

He called his sister and her husband, who rushed to Gainesville. Ball's parents had both died before he was 10, his father a victim of cancer and his mother dying from a heart attack. His grandmother had raised him about 40 miles south of Atlanta, but she was too frail to make the trip.

His sister took him home to rest for surgery, but the pain brought him back to the emergency room. Finally, doctors were ready for a non-invasive radiosurgery. They clamped his head into a brace with four screws and went to work.

The procedure worked, but Ball's recovery took time.

He spent 10 days in the hospital, lost 30 pounds, felt weak and off-balance. And that was just the beginning.

``The scariest moment was when it was happening, the pain that I felt,'' he said. ``The happiest moment is when they said I was going to live. Before that, I was lost. I didn't know what was going on. I had no idea what was going on.''

He had no idea about football, either. It wasn't until January that he was able to start working out.

Even then, he didn't know if he would be cleared to play again.

That came in June, after countless tests to make sure the vessels had not burst again.

``He's been through an awful lot, not just with the injury last year, but he's had some tough things happen in his life, some setbacks,'' coach Will Muschamp said. ``Any time you're able to see something like that, it makes you feel good about where you are and what you're doing.

``He's a really good player, too. He's a guy that missed football for a year. It's a developmental game. When you miss that much time, it doesn't come back as easily as it does for others. It's come back very quickly for him.''

Ball started the season opener against Bowling Green as well as Florida's victory over LSU. He intercepted a pass against Georgia, which he called the highlight of his college career.

``I'm happy as a friend,'' cornerback Jaylen Watkins said. ``All of us are. He went through a lot. The plays that are coming his way, he's making them and he's just excited to be out there. It means a lot and it shows you should cherish every moment on the field.''

Ball is a finalist for the Orange Bowl Courage Award, given annually to a player, coach or support person in college football who displays courage on or off the field.

Ball, meanwhile, has shared his story with anyone who asks. And it always starts with the ``worst headache ever.''

``It always reminds me,'' he said. ``The experiences I've been through, I just feel like I've seen a lot and I learned from it. Other people haven't seen some of the things that I have seen. I just feel like because of those things I see things differently.''

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RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

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USA Today Sports

RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

Too much attention gets paid to roster construction during training camp. Projecting the 53-man roster has become its own August cottage industry, much like Bracketology flourishes in March.

The truth of the matter is regardless of projections, more than anything else, injuries dictate what players ultimately land on the Week 1 roster. 

Right now, that is apparent with the Redskins' running back position. Derrius Guice headlined the group after Washington grabbed him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. After injuring his knee in the first preseason game, however, Guice won't play in 2018. 

That means the other five guys battling for a spot now move up in the pecking order. Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson will make the team, even though Thompson is yet to play in the preseason and is still battling back from a broken leg last November. 

Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall, and Kapri Bibbs played with the 'Skins last season and were locked in a tense battle for spots. Then, Perine and Marshall got hurt Thursday night. Perine is expected to miss a week, while Marshall could miss up to four weeks. 

Can both Perine and Marshall still make the Redskins 53-man roster? 

Of course. 

Is that a certainty? Definitely not. 

Bibbs gets a major opportunity now, and he has looked good so far in camp and preseason games. Additionally, for Bibbs, it often gets lost that he actually played well in Washington last season. In three games he had more than 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

If Marshall truly needs a month to get his lower leg injury settled, that won't be until after the deadline to trim rosters. The Redskins could move him to the injured reserve list before then, but that would mean Marshall would not be eligible to play for the Burgundy and Gold until Week 7. Also, the team only gets two moves off of IR for the season. Would they want to use one on their fourth running back?

Perine's injury situation seems less severe, and barring a setback or further injury, he will be on the roster. 

That means Thompson, Kelley, Perine, and Bibbs. Maybe Marshall too, but that will be determined by his rehab schedule. 

Martez Carter made impressive runs against the Jets, and while it seems easy to dismiss his roster candidacy, remember Rob Kelley was an undrafted free agent out of a small Louisiana school just a few years ago.

Complicating matters is the reality that Washington's front office is absolutely going to be watching what other NFL teams do at roster cut time. Other running backs could emerge, especially from teams like Detroit that already have a crowded running back room and added more players via the draft. 

Coaches like to say competition on the field is what makes roster decisions. And yes, that's a big part of it. The violent nature of the NFL, the ultimate Next Man Up league, plays a huge factor as well. 

Trimming a roster because of injuries doesn't mean there aren't mistakes made. It sure looks like Washington screwed up last year by cutting QB Nate Sudfeld, even though the team felt compelled to keep extra offensive linemen. 

It might be trite, but the NFL is a long, grueling season. The Redskins know that. The team lost more players to injury than any other NFL squad last season. 

So when looking at 53-man roster projections, know there are two more preseason games left, and sad but likely, more injuries to come. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

SPREAD THE WEALTH: 'SKINS FINE WITHOUT A TOP W.R.?

BATTLE IT OUT: R.B. IS A SPOT TO WATCH

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—The brawl, the flinch, and following the money

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—The brawl, the flinch, and following the money

Here is what you need to know on Saturday, August 17, six days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

The Redskins week that was: A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskinsand NBC Sports Washington.

The 'Skins and Jets got into a brawl an hour into practice—I was about 10 yards away from where the fight took place, but I was only a few yards from where Morgan Moses hit the ground after taking what the Redskins interpreted to be a cheap shot. I can attest that the earth moves when Moses hits the ground. As to the dustup itself, I wouldn’t have cared at all if it had taken place in the middle of the field. But the fight spilling over into the spectator area made it a very dangerous incident. They need to do better. 

Redskins release CB Orlando Scandrick—When an out-of-the-blue move like this takes place, follow the money. If Scandrick had sustained an injury during the preseason that was serious enough to put him on injured reserve, the Redskins would have been on the hook for his entire 2018 salary of $1.72 million. In addition, his salary would become fully guaranteed if he had been on the roster in Week 1. The Redskins decided to cut their losses, which was his signing bonus of a cool $1 million. 

How Davis' injury affects the Redskins' WR depth chart—Robert Davis was not a lock to make the Redskins’ roster, but he certainly was a contender. But that all changed in an instant a week ago when he got tangled up with cornerback Danny Johnson during practice. Johnson bounced right up, Davis did not, having sustained a broken leg and knee ligament damage. Davis spent most of last year on the practice squad so this will be a second straight season without game action for the 2017 sixth-round pick. 

Redskins starters training camp one-liners, offense—You hear plenty of talk about the backups and bubble players during training camp and often the front-line players get overlooked. So there is your look at how the offensive starters fared in camp, one-liners style. You can find the defense here

Tweet of the week

We didn’t expect him to say anything but we had to ask Terrelle Pryor if he had any comment after the “flinching” incident with D.J. Swearinger. This was all he was willing to say as he jogged towards the locker room with a smile on his face. 

It would be inaccurate to say that Pryor is a polarizing figure among Redskins fans because that would mean that he had an equal number of supporters and detractors. It’s pretty much all haters. And it’s probably not fair.

From my point of view, I don’t have a problem with Pryor. He was always a stand-up guy when dealing with us. And while he was a free agent bust with the Redskins he didn’t cost a ton of money. Besides, he is hardly unique in that regard. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 2; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:30

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 6 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 14 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 22 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler