ENGLEWOOD — The day didn’t go as usual.
The locker room wasn’t as jovial, nor practice as intense.
The Denver Broncos’ thoughts were miles away.
They were thinking of No. 77. It was hard to focus on football at the same time a teammate was undergoing emergency surgery.
Offensive lineman Dwayne Carswell was involved in a five-car accident Thursday morning in Aurora. He was driving to the team’s Dove Valley practice facility when the crash occurred at 7:10 a.m.
Carswell was traveling south on Parker Road near the intersection of Hampden Avenue when two northbound cars collided and veered into the southbound lanes, according
to the police report.
Five cars suffered
extensive damage, including Carswell’s 1994 Chevrolet Caprice. Firefighters pried Carswell from his car with Jaws of Life tools. The intersection was closed for 11/2 hours.
Carswell and Marquita Brister, a woman in another vehicle, were taken to the hospital. Brister was cited for careless driving, then treated and released.
Carswell was rushed into surgery. Doctors at Aurora South Medical Center removed his spleen and repaired internal organ damage during a five-hour procedure.
He also suffered a contusion on his entire left internal cavity, multiple rib fractures and a ruptured diaphragm, according to a statement released by the Broncos. He’s listed in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit at the hospital. He’s allowed no visitors for 24 to 48 hours.
The Broncos learned of the accident during a morning team meeting. All of a sudden, getting ready to play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday didn’t seem so important.
“The volatile nature of what we do is one thing, but the fragile nature of life is another,” fullback Kyle Johnson said. “We wish for everything to go smoothly and (for Carswell to) be safe and well.”
Fellow lineman George Foster couldn’t believe something like this had happened to his “twin.” Foster often gets confused for Carswell, and vice versa. The news hit him hard.
“We’re praying for a fast recovery,” Foster said. “When you consider something like this, football is secondary.”
Football isn’t even in the conversation about a player who has missed only one game since 1995.
“He won’t return this season,” Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. “I can guarantee you that. It’s very serious what he went through, and now it’s just worrying about him recovering.”
Given his age, 33, and the extent of the injuries, it is possible Carswell’s career is in jeopardy.
Carswell was having a solid 12th season in the league. He caught a pair of touchdown passes against Jacksonville on Oct. 2, becoming the first lineman in the Super Bowl era to catch two in a game. It was a good place for that piece of history to take place; Carswell is from Jacksonville.
While Carswell hasn’t started on the offensive line this season, he has still seen plenty of action. He has frequently reported as an eligible receiver in goal-line situations. That’s not surprising: Carswell, signed by Denver as a college free agent in 1994, has spent most of his life as a tight end. Denver quarterback Jake Plummer said Carswell has the best hands on the team next to receiver Rod Smith.
However, Carswell’s football accomplishments were the furthest thing from the Broncos’ minds Thursday. The fact the accident happened while he was driving to work opened up the players’ eyes — it could’ve been them.
“I always told my father that I’m not a gambling man, but he said every time you get in a car and you drive somewhere, that’s a gamble itself,” Denver safety Nick Ferguson said. “It can happen to anybody. You just hope it doesn’t happen, but unfortunately, it did.”
The hard part is getting back to football.
Before the start and end of the practice Thursday, the team gathered as Shanahan spoke. They broke the huddle to the chant of “House,” which is Carswell’s nickname.
“It’s definitely in the back of your mind,” Denver linebacker Al Wilson said, “but we know we still have a job to go out and do. We just hope for the best and try to visit him when we get an opportunity.
“We’re just hoping for the best.”
Players talk often about despising distractions. They don’t like anything that sidetracks them from their job. But this
doesn’t fall under that category.
“There are distractions, and there are events,” Johnson said. “This is an event. A distraction is something that occurs that takes your mind away from the game that doesn’t have to happen.
“This is something that’s unfortunate. You want to continue to focus on what you have to do, but you have to understand there are more important things than football. This is an incident that will highlight that in your thinking.”
Denver running back Mike Anderson couldn’t agree more.
“It shows you that life is short,” he said. “You can’t take anything for granted.”