Denard Span on concussion: ‘I definitely don’t feel as bad as I did years ago’

Denard Span after he was knocked down by Dan Uggla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Denard Span after he was knocked down by Dan Uggla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Despite suffering a concussion on Friday, his first since the one that threatened his career in 2011, Denard Span arrived at Turner Field on Sunday with his teammates and was in good spirits. He joked with reporters and chatted with teammates. He came to the stadium on Saturday only for a follow-up evaluation with a doctor, who diagnosed him with a mild concussion, and spent the rest of the day in the team hotel, resting with all the lights off.

“I feel fine,” Span said. “If I had to play [Sunday], I could play. I understand with my history that it was best for me to go on the seven-day DL to be safe. So we went ahead to think about the rest of the season and the rest of my life.”

Span was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Saturday after he was knocked down by Dan Uggla as he rounded first base after a game-tyinggo-ahead single in the eighth inning of Friday’s game. Uggla told Braves reporters that he was trying to cover first base on the play and didn’t intend to run into Span. Uggla’s right shoulder and forearm hit Span in the chest and face, knocking off his helmet and knocking him to the ground.

Uggla knew the severity of the collision when he saw Span on the ground. “I wanted to give him a hug,” Uggla told Braves reporters.

Span admitted that he was “very shocked” to see Uggla there when he rounded first and looked toward the outfield at the ball. Span said his thigh, which caught Uggla’s knee, was hurting more than his head. He described running into Uggla as getting hit by “a little running back, a stocky running back, a Maurice Jones-Drew type running back.”

“I didn’t think that even with us colliding like that, I didn’t think it was going to be an impact like that,” he added. “I thought maybe we’d be able to brace each other. It’s crazy this game. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Since the collision, Span said he received a text message from Uggla, who got his cell number from Ryan Zimmerman. Span said he appreciated Uggla’s gesture and wasn’t expecting an apology.

Span was evaluated by a team assistant trainer on the field and remained in the game. He was evaluated by the team trainer in the dugout in between innings. After the game, he was evaluated by a doctor after complaining of a headache. Span said Sunday that he felt the beginnings of a headache and pressure in his head “a couple innings later.” He finished the 10-inning game.

Span doesn’t regret playing after the collision because he felt fine. He had a six-pitch at-bat his next time up and felt encouraged. He said he felt fine after the collision, knew the score of the game, that he ran into Uggla, what city he was in and the details of the situation. The following day, however, Span admitted to feeling a small headache, his mind being a little foggy and not as coherent as normal. “[Saturday] things were a little bit slower than normal,” he said.

Span said he was a little concerned about Friday’s concussion because of his previous one in 2011. He doesn’t feel like the previous concussion, which limited him to 70 games that season in Minnesota, was handled well, including by himself. He said he had trouble sleeping thinking about three years ago. But he believes he is smarter and more honest about his head injuries now, and teams know how to handle concussions better now.

“I’m just going to put my faith in God and believe that he does everything for a reason,” he said. “I’m okay with it and I definitely don’t feel as bad as I did years ago. I’m confident that everything will be fine.”

Span will rest again on Sunday, travel with the team to Miami and he hopes to take batting practice on Monday. General Manager Mike Rizzo, however, said Span would do some non-baseball physical activities on Monday in Miami and then be evaluated by a doctor. MLB has mandated guidelines on handling concussions and a player’s return to the field.

“We’re a little bit more educated on concussions in 2014 as opposed to 2011,” Span said. “… I’m going to be a bit smarter this time and use what happened last time as a learning experience and hopefully I’m going to be out there soon. I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to be honest with myself and listen to my body and listen to my brain and just go from there.”

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