Over the course of his 10-year career, Todd Heap has taken a myriad of big hits and has been bothered by a number of injuries.
I think it's safe to say that few of those incidents have been as scary as the one that took place yesterday afternoon, however.
A week after suffering a shoulder stinger on a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit from Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, Heap took another hit while blocking on Joe Flacco's flea-flicker touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. The tight end stayed on his feet through the hit and appeared to be fine, but suddenly, he collapsed to the ground.
Heap was down on the field for a few minutes, and was in obvious pain, but he was eventually able to walk to the sideline under his own power. The injury was eventually ruled a shoulder stinger.
"I really don't remember exactly what happened," Heap said of the play. "All I know is, I was in extreme pain at that time, so I wasn't quite sure if it was the neck or the shoulder or what it was. It was probably going along with what happened with the hit last week, it was a similar-type deal. At that point, I was just trying to make the pain go away.
"It was contact. It was a play I was trying to block one guy and then get a hand on another guy, and as soon as I got that hand on him, he kind of came into me and kind of got a similar hit in the shoulder, similar stinger that I got last week."
Because the injury appeared to be pretty serious, it was a surprise to myself and those around me in the press box when Heap returned to the game a handful of plays into the Ravens' next drive.
Heap said that he felt "comfortable going in and playing" despite the injury, and he got a good amount of reps the rest of the game, although rookie tight end Ed Dickson picked up some of the slack, especially late in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
But because of all the hits Heap has taken over the course of his career and the severity of neck injuries, you have to wonder if it might be time for the Ravens to ease up on their use of the veteran tight end.
The Ravens' medical staff obviously knows best, but if the team's goal is to keep Heap as healthy and have him available during the stretch run (which I would think it is), the coaches might want to use more of Dickson and fellow rookie tight end Dennis Pitta over the next couple games.
Heap will get the perfectly-timed bye week to rest up and get treatment, which he said he was looking forward to.
But when the Ravens return to the field two weeks from now against the Dolphins, I think it might be wise to sprinkle in more of the talented rookie tight ends and give Heap a chance to get healthy and let his neck and shoulder fully recover.