GREEN BAY, Wis. — Malachi Dupre doesn’t remember anything about the hit that sent him to the hospital during his first NFL game, but he’ll never forget the first person who showed up to visit him.
Enter Aaron Rodgers.
A steady stream of visitors followed. Coach Mike McCarthy. Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb and his wife. Fellow rookie Montay Crockett and his girlfriend. Dupre’s brother Matt and a cousin who were in town for the game. But it was the presence of the Green Bay Packers quarterback that helped serve as a calming influence after what Dupre described as a “terrifying” experience.
“It surprised me a lot, but that’s just the type of love we create every day with each other in this locker room,” Dupre said. “When something like that occurs, it actually shows you how much everyone cares for each other. It’s unfortunate it had to be a scenario like that, but it showed me a lot.”
Dupre, the seventh-round rookie receiver from LSU, returned to practice on Tuesday — 12 days after he sustained a concussion when Philadelphia Eagles safety Tre Sullivan hit him after a short reception. Emergency medical technicians strapped Dupre to a gurney and carted him off Lambeau Field and straight to the hospital on the night of Aug. 10.
On his way to the ambulance, Dupre gave the thumbs-up sign — something else he doesn’t recall.
“I just remember catching the football,” Dupre said. “After that, nothing until I woke up in the ambulance. I don’t remember giving a thumbs-up to the crowd or anything. I’m just glad it’s not as bad as it looked.”
The next thing he remembered was the ambulance, where he said he had a mini freak out.
“It was the scariest thing in my life because I don’t know why I was there,” he said. “When I tell you I did not have a clue why I was in the ambulance, I woke up first and heard the sirens and was like, ‘Whoa.’ I just saw lights and people who were like, ‘Calm down. Calm down. You’re all right.’ I panicked, but I had great care that night and I’m very thankful to be back.”
Dupre said he won’t think twice about going over the middle to make a catch.
“The day he came back into that meeting room, he was ready to rock and roll,” Packers receivers coach Luke Getsy said of Dupre. “He wishes he could have played last week. So, no. Honestly, it probably would have crossed mind the very next morning, but then when I saw him in this building, the way he was bouncing around ready to go again, I feel good about him and I think he’s going to have a good day.”
Dupre said he’s watched the play “a hundred times” but wouldn’t say whether he thought it was an illegal or dirty hit. His coach, however, said it for him. McCarthy said the day after the game that the hit on Dupre and the one that gave Packers cornerback Damarious Randall a concussion both were illegal plays and turned them into the NFL office even though neither drew a flag.
It’s not known if Sullivan was fined; the NFL has not released any preseason fines yet. But receiver Bryce Treggs said earlier this week that he was fined for his hit on Randall, and it started a Twitter spat between him and Randall after Treggs complained about what he said was a $25,000 fine.
“I just felt like it was a very, very dirty hit and him just crying about the fine, that made me feel like that was very, very disrespectful,” Randall said after he returned to practice on Tuesday.
When asked whether he thought the punishment fit the crime, Randall said: “I would say more a suspension than money, but since he ain’t got much of that, I guess the money punishment is fine.”
Both Dupre and Randall, who are expected to play Saturday at Denver after missing last week’s game at Washington, said it was their first-ever concussion.
“From the panic and scary moment of waking up in the ambulance and not knowing why you are there to feeling everything and being able to move, that was relieving,” Dupre said. “I can feel my body was fine when I woke up. Even before them telling me all the tests and everything went well, I felt myself and felt normal. When I got to the hospital that night and was relaxing, my teammates visited me. I was able to converse back and forth with them.”