Atogwe Injury Decision Awaits
Monday, December 7, 2009

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

Laying in front of the near 62,000 fans at Soldier Field on Sunday, Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe wanted to waste no time in getting his moments before dislocated shoulder popped back into place.

So Atogwe asked the Rams medical staff to pop that right shoulder back where it belongs right on the field only minutes after he suffered the injury on the final play of the half.

“Where else would you want to have it?” Atogwe said, laughing. “If they did it wrong, I’ve got all these witnesses. It was fine. It wasn’t that bad as far as the pain, I just wanted to get it back in as soon as possible. They did a great job.”

What the assembled medical staff couldn’t tell him at that moment was the extent of the injury though Atogwe had a suspicion of the implications that come with a dislocated shoulder.

Atogwe had his MRI on Monday morning, the results of which revealed a labral tear in his right shoulder and a small amount of cartilage damage. It’s the type of injury a player can play through but will require surgery at some point.

The question now becomes whether Atogwe will have that surgery right away or if he will try to grit out the final four games with a harness on and the eminent possibility that the shoulder could pop in and out of place for the rest of the season.

“We have still got a lot of discussions to be had,” Atogwe said. “I have to talk to some people and see how it feels the next few days. No decisions have been made just yet. I am going to be very prayerful about it and do what’s best for the team as well as my own future career.”

Atogwe has only had shoulder issues – an injury common to safeties it seems – a few years ago but that was a partial tear of the rotator cuff in the same shoulder and is unrelated.

Before speaking with the press Monday, Atogwe spoke with coach Steve Spagnuolo and will also have a few more discussions in the coming days before he makes a decision on what to do for the rest of the season.

Opting for surgery now would not allow for enough recovery time and his 2009 season would end four games early. Should he opt to try to play, the question then becomes whether Atogwe can play at his usual, ball hawking level.

“That’s something I will talk to my agent about,” Atogwe said. “The staff here has been fabulous. I will call my agent and see what he says and get some of his advice and input and then from there decide whether we want to take it to another specialist to get a second opinion or just go with what our doctor said but they did a good job in this case.”

Prior to the injury, Atogwe was up to his usual tricks, causing a fumble and recovering it on one of the opening plays of the game and forcing another fumble after running down Chicago receiver Earl Bennett from behind.

For the season, Atogwe has posted 84 tackles with two interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three passes defended.

In addition, Atogwe has proved his worth as a valuable leader in the locker room. Even after he was relegated to the sideline on Sunday with the shoulder injury, Atogwe spent the rest of the game sidled up to Spagnuolo shouting words of encouragement and offering tips to Craig Dahl, his replacement.

“He does a great job for us,” Spagnuolo said. “I love the guy, really as much as a person as a player. You saw him out there yesterday, causes a turnover, gets a fumble, brings a lot of energy. He was right there by me in the second half, right into the game. That’s what he’s all about. I certainly think he’s a good football player…I’m glad we have him.”

Atogwe suffered the injury on the final play of the first half as he attempted to bring down Chicago running back Matt Forte. On a fluke occurrence, Atogwe took a helmet shot square on his shoulder.

Instantly, Atogwe knew something was wrong.

“It was a weird hit,” Atogwe said. “I went down to hit him and he kind of caught me flush with his helmet directly on my shoulder and we popped it back. It was one of those freak hits, perfect placement I guess.”

Dahl stepped in for Atogwe and filled in admirably as he registered five tackles and was solid in pass coverage.

When safety James Butler suffered an injury earlier in the season, Dahl filled in well, giving the Rams confidence that should Atogwe choose surgery that Dahl will be well prepared to step in and play.

“Craig Dahl steps in there and does a great job,” Atogwe said. “This is the way the NFL works. If one guy goes down and if I am not to come back then another guy has to step up. I believe in Craig Dahl and his ability to play in this league and I know he’ll do fine.”

Of course, that decision still has yet to be made and the insightful and thoughtful Atogwe will think of this injury from all angles before he makes a decision.

At the end of this season, Atogwe is scheduled for free agency, yet another factor that could possibly play in his mind.
But Atogwe isn’t the type to let those variables cloud his thinking. Instead, ever the team player, Atogwe will make the decision that’s best for all involved. And ultimately, it will be his call.

“In this game and this life you are not promised tomorrow so I can’t take it for granted while I am in this season and say I have next season,” Atogwe said. “You never know what will happen. There are guys who were playing last year who didn’t even make it to the field this year due to certain decisions or life happening to them so I didn’t want to take for granted the moments that I do have and that I can play in today.”