Carolina Panthers

Health scare humbles Panthers OT Bridges

CHARLOTTE -- Panthers offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges can laugh about it now. But he knows what he's been going through the last four days has been life-changing.

Bridges, who missed last week's game after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat last Sunday morning, will return to practice today after undergoing a procedure that sounds more drastic than it could possibly be.

"Yeah, they killed me and brought me back to life," Bridges joked when asked what doctors did to correct his problem. "I call it getting dropped and shocked. I don't know what it's called technically."

He said he was put under a general anesthetic and doctors used an electric shock to get his heart back into rhythm, during a procedure performed Monday.

"The top part was beating a lot faster than the bottom part," he said. "It's dangerous because it can cause blood clots and all this other stuff, so Doc saw it fitting I get shocked to get back in rhythm."

The 28-year-old backup tackle said he considered himself "blessed," to be able to joke about it, and to be back to health. He's also making changes moving forward to make sure it doesn't happen again. He said after doctors told him tobacco use can be one of the triggers for irregular heartbeats, he decided -- with some not-so-subtle direction from his wife and kids -- to give up the smokeless tobacco that was a staple of his workday.

"So all of you kids out there in TV land, stop chewing tobacco. It will kill you, literally," Bridges said to the bank of television cameras surrounding him. "He (the doctor) really believed that my tobacco use is what triggered it. It's a scientific fact that it can and it will trigger it. I put it out of my life. No more tobacco chewing for me."

Bridges was put through a battery of tests before being cleared to resume work, and spent Wednesday on the sidelines exercising during practice. But he had no doubts he'd be ready to go this weekend at Atlanta, now that he's had his perspective check.

"You definitely have to look at yourself in the mirror, you kind of take things for granted about being here on Earth," he said. "When something external happens, you kind of blow it off, like 'I sprained my ankle, oh, I can get this taken care of.' But when they start talking about your heart, your kidneys and your lungs and blood clots and your brain, it will wake you up. It makes you realize that at any moment you can be taken away from this earth.

"A lot of people I know call me Superman, but far from it. Very far from it."

• THEY ALL KNOW -- NOW: In the aftermath of Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb's startling admission that he didn't know NFL regular-season games could end in ties, everyone was talking about the topic.

"I did," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said Wednesday on a conference call, sounding a bit sheepish about admitting he knew the rule. "I knew that it could end in a tie. We have been in a couple of close games this year, so I was aware of that."

Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme tried to take up for McNabb -- citing the fraternity of quarterbacks -- but he has the benefit of having played in a double-overtime playoff game in 2003 (something McNabb didn't know existed either).

"I promise you, there's some people that probably didn't know that overtime ended in a tie in the regular season," Delhomme said. "I think a lot of people here know ... If it's not a playoff game, you might think you go to double overtime. Let's be honest."

Delhomme said even if McNabb didn't know the rule, he saw no reason to believe it affected the way he played the extra session. The Eagles and Cincinnati failed to score in the overtime period, leading to the first tie in the league since 2002.

"I promise you, he didn't play thinking 'Let's wait until the second overtime,'" Delhomme said. "I'm sure he's getting a lot of flak over it. A lot of guys probably don't know and are too proud to say they didn't know."

The Atlanta rookie said he's had other instances in which he was confused, specifically a screen pass in the preseason on which he protested an illegal man downfield penalty.

"I think I have gotten better as the year has gone on," Ryan said of knowing the rules. "I remember in a preseason game we threw a screen and they called an illegal man down field. One of the changes from college to the pros is that linemen are not allowed to be downfield on screens and in college you can do that all the time.

"I was telling the referee 'It's OK, it was a screen, it was behind the line of scrimmage.' He said 'I understand that, but they are not allowed to do that.' So that was the first time I was unsure of one of the rules."

• EXTRA POINTS: In addition to Bridges, linebacker Thomas Davis missed practice with an ankle injury. Center Ryan Kalil was limited with his ankle problem, while defensive tackle Darwin Walker, bothered by neck soreness since his Oct. 26 car wreck, practiced fully. ...

The Falcons were without six players Wednesday, including rookie left tackle Sam Baker (back surgery) and his replacement, veteran Todd Weiner (knee). They were also without wide receivers Roddy White and Laurent Robinson, defensive tackles Grady Jackson and Kindal Moorehead.