Leonard Floyd injury hits close to home for Jets' Jordan Jenkins

As soon as Jordan Jenkins saw his good friend and college teammate Leonard Floyd drop to the MetLife Stadium turf this past weekend, he thought back to Devon Gales and that fateful game more than a year ago.

It was Sept. 26, 2015. Jenkins, Floyd and the Georgia Bulldogs were facing off against Southern University when the unthinkable happened. On a kickoff late in the third quarter, Gales, a defensive back for Southern, attempted to throw a block on Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan, but he led with his head. He engaged Morgan in a helmet-to-helmet collision and suffered multiple fractures in his neck. Gales was paralyzed.

“It was just a light hit. Our kid didn’t even know,” Jenkins, a rookie outside linebacker for the Jets, recalled to the Daily News. “He hit him, and then his whole body (went limp).”

So Jenkins understood the gravity of the situation when Floyd — a rookie outside linebacker for the Bears and the No. 9 overall pick in last year’s draft — sustained an alarming neck injury when Chicago met the Giants at MetLife Stadium Sunday.

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In the fourth quarter, Floyd attempted to make a tackle on Big Blue running back Rashad Jennings when the crown of his helmet smashed into the midsection of defensive end Akiem Hicks. On slow-motion replay, you can see Floyd’s neck compress, which can often lead to devastating spinal cord injuries like Gales’.

Jordan Jenkins (48) was taken aback when he saw his former college teammate Leonard Floyd carted off the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Jordan Jenkins (48) was taken aback when he saw his former college teammate Leonard Floyd carted off the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

(Seth Wenig/AP)

Floyd crumpled to his knees. He rested motionless with his head facedown in the turf, grasping his helmet with both hands. He was tended to by trainers and was later carted off the field on a backboard.

“That’s scary, because he went in and went low and his head just buckled,” Jenkins said. “I was just hoping it wasn’t any serious injury.”

Floyd was brought to a local hospital as a precaution, but was released in time to return home with his Bears teammates, according to reports. He remains in the concussion protocol and is experiencing some neck soreness. But it’s a small price compared to what could have been.

Bears’ Leonard Floyd travels with teammates back to Chicago

“He’s your boy and you went to school together, you’re like ‘Damn, I hope he’s good.'” Jenkins said. “He caught the brunt of it. … It was bad.”

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Leonard Floyd was a first-round pick of the Bears in the 2016 draft.

(Abel Uribe/AP)

Jenkins told The News he planned on either calling or texting Floyd early this week to check on his status. Jenkins and Floyd played the same position at Georgia, but their bond went deeper than that.

Jenkins said the Bulldogs’ outside linebacker room “was full of weird cats.” Along with Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Cater, Jenkins and Floyd liked to watch animated shows and play Dragon Ball Z video games together. Bellamy and Carter are still on the roster at Georgia.

“We always hung out together,” Jenkins said. “We were a weird bunch.”

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That relationship is why Jenkins was overjoyed Monday to know Floyd was in good condition. It was a crisis averted.

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Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd were on the field with Southern University’s Devon Gales injured himself and was parylazed in a game against Georgia in September 2015.

(Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

But the reality is these types of injuries are unavoidable in a violent game like football. Jenkins understands that first hand from Gales’ paralyzing spinal injury, and now he has another experience to carry with him.

So that’s why Jenkins is committed to strengthening his neck and perfecting his tackling form to avoid being in a similar scenario. Jenkins said strength and conditioning coach Justus Galac often shows the Jets pictures of players in positions where their necks are at awkward angles or turned, reinforcing the importance of neck workouts.

“When you think about it, you’re in those situations a lot,” Jenkins said. “You’ve got to keep strengthening it and not lead with your head.”

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Gales has recently made strides as he battles back from his crippling injury. He underwent a successful surgery in October 2015. And on May 17, Gales’ mother posted a video to Facebook that showed Gales moving one of his legs on command.

Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is carried off the field in a cart after injuring his neck on a tackle in the fourth quarter against the Bears on Sunday.

Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is carried off the field in a cart after injuring his neck on a tackle in the fourth quarter against the Bears on Sunday.

(Bill Kostroun/AP)

According to Jenkins, Georgia has also embraced Gales, bringing him out to home football games while helping pay some of his medical bills.

Jenkins is thankful Floyd will never have to know the pain Gales endured.

“I pray for the best,” Jenkins said.

Tags:
nfl
new york jets
new york giants
chicago bears
jordan jenkins
leonard floyd
college football
georgia bulldogs
sports injuries

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