Chain-crew member on mend after collision with Saints player

NEW ORLEANS -- The son of a hospitalized NFL chain-crew member said Monday night that he is optimistic about his father's recovery from a head injury that resulted from a collision with Saints player Courtney Roby.

Al Nastasi Jr. was knocked to the turf Sunday during a game between the Saints and Cleveland Browns. Roby was sprinting up field on punt coverage when he was pushed out of bounds and leveled Nastasi.

Al Nastasi III said his father remains under constant observation in Ochsner Hospital's neuro intensive care unit and is undergoing daily diagnostic testing.

"Indicators are favorable, but he's not out of the woods yet," the younger Nastasi said. "Given the nature of the collision and the mechanism of injury, the family feels quite fortunate that he is functioning as well as he is."

Roby said he's also keeping tabs on Nastasi, with whom he visited Sunday night, hours after the game in which Nastasi was carted off the field while being given intravenous fluids.

"Just to go up there and talk to him for a while and see that he will be OK was a blessing," Roby said. "It was good to see he is alert, and we talked for a while, not only about the incident, but about life in general."

Nastasi was a track athlete at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and has coached high school track in suburban Jefferson Parish for about three decades. That gave him something in common with Roby, who ran high school track in Indiana.

Roby, who is a gunner on punt coverage, said he had a hard time recalling the details of the collision and initially wasn't even sure who he'd hit on the sideline, or how hard.

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"Everything happened so fast," he said. "It's kind of hard to sit here and pinpoint exactly what happened.

Roby said Nastasi's health was on his mind for the rest of the game.

"It was a scary incident," Roby continued. "Football is a sport, but life is precious. You never want to see anybody get injured. To see something like that happen, it definitely hurts."

Saints coach Sean Payton said even before Nastasi's injury, there had been discussions during NFL conference calls about having on-field officials and sideline crew wear more protective gear.

"I think in the near future you're going to see the officials and the other people working the game in helmets," Payton said. "The head trauma is the biggest concern for anyone that close to the speed of the game, and I think that would make a lot of sense."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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