In the stands Zac Collie thought, Ozzie, you've got to be kidding me. Again? At home Brooke was stunned. "I was freaking out," she says, "but I've got the baby and I can't do anything." Again, a flurry of texts and calls came, from Colts wives and personnel. This time Austin walked off the field. "He was out again," says Feuer, "but only for about 10 seconds." There's little amnesia in this instance; Collie remembers the ball in the air on the play. But, Feuer says, "he was more symptomatic after this one than the one in Philadelphia, no two ways about it. He wasn't just nauseous; he had that vacant stare." Three days later the Colts, acting on Feuer's advice, put Collie on injured reserve.
On Jan. 8 Indy's season ended in a playoff loss to the Jets, and two weeks after that Collie took a demanding three-hour version of the ImPACT test. "No evidence of head injury," says Feuer. Collie's stance is that the Jacksonville hit would have knocked him out if even if he had not been previously concussed. "Anybody would have," he says. "I was just unlucky. Because the Eagles hit was made into such a big deal, and then I got another concussion, people want to say, 'This kid is concussion-prone.' Those were two separate hits, and anybody would have gotten concussions from them."
It's a contentious point. Neuropsychologist Kenneth Podell, who works with Detroit-area professional teams, watched the Jacksonville hit and says, "I believe it would have given anybody a concussion." Yet neurologist James P. Kelly, who consults with athletes and the military, says, "People who have had concussions have a higher risk of more concussions."
Collie has been training since February and says his symptoms are gone. "People are entitled to their opinions about me," he says, "but they're not the ones who've had the concussions. They're not the ones who know how I'm feeling. I've got a family and a kid. I know there are more important things than football. If I get another [concussion], I'll take into consideration what's happened in the past. But every person is different, every body reacts differently. I'm ready to continue what I started in those first six weeks last year."
The Colts support his comeback. "This is all uncharted territory," says Polian, "and it's an athlete in our building who we all care for and respect. But it's 100 percent in the hands of the doctors."
At least one doctor can accept the reasoning behind Collie's clearance. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon and codirector of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, says, "If a player takes a really significant blow, then somewhat paradoxically we're a little less worried. CTE is more related to total brain trauma, where you have linemen taking 1,000 to 1,500 subconcussive blows in a season. If [Collie] got clocked twice and the rest of his career has been clean, I couldn't criticize anybody who would clear him to come back and play."
On a cool spring morning in California, Brooke Collie applies a loved one's logic. "In the background you always worry, because it's part of the game," she says. "But this is the life we choose." Her husband, vibrant, strong and fit, stands on a porch nearby, no longer just a football player but a test case, too.
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Don Banks's mock second round, Friday morning at SI.com/nfl