Pats-Packers suspended after Bolden carted off

Bill Belichick, Matthew Slater react to Isaiah Bolden’s injury (1:19)

Bill Belichick and Matthew Slater talk about the scary injury to Patriots cornerback Isaiah Bolden, which suspended their preseason game against the Packers. (1:19)

  • Mike Reiss

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    Mike Reiss

    ESPN Staff Writer

      Mike Reiss is an NFL reporter at ESPN and covers the New England Patriots. Reiss has covered the Patriots since 1997 and joined ESPN in 2009. In 2019, he was named Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. You can follow Reiss on Twitter at @MikeReiss.
  • Rob Demovsky

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    Rob Demovsky

    ESPN Staff Writer

      Rob Demovsky is an NFL reporter at ESPN and covers the Green Bay Packers. He has covered the Packers since 1997 and joined ESPN in 2013. Demovsky is a two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the NSSA. You can follow him on Twitter at @RobDemovsky.

Aug 19, 2023, 11:27 PM ET

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Patriots and Packers had their preseason game Saturday night suspended early in the fourth quarter after New England rookie cornerback Isaiah Bolden absorbed a hit from a teammate that led to him being immobilized, placed on a stretcher and carted off the field.

The Patriots said Bolden had “feeling in all his extremities” but will remain hospitalized in the Green Bay area overnight for observation. The team plans an update on his condition by 9 a.m. ET on Sunday.

“We’re all saying a prayer for Isaiah,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Appreciate the way the league handled it. I think that was the right thing to do.”

With 10:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, referee John Hussey announced to the crowd at Lambeau Field: “At the agreement of both head coaches and team leadership, we have elected to suspend play for the evening. The game is officially over.”

Belichick said the injury put things in perspective, adding: “We’re all very fortunate.” Packers coach Matt LaFleur called it “a very scary ending to the game” and said he agreed with the decision to call it.

The Patriots, who practiced with the Packers on Wednesday and Thursday, were leading 21-17 at the time.

Bolden was covering a slant pass toward the inside part of the field and collided with teammate Calvin Munson. He remained down on the ground, and as medical personnel arrived, the entire Patriots team ultimately gathered on the field and knelt nearby.

Packers rookie receiver Malik Heath, who caught the pass on the play, said he didn’t realize exactly what happened until the play was over. He then realized the injured player was Bolden, whom he knows from their college days. Heath is from Jackson, Mississippi, the same town where Bolden went to college at Jackson State.

“I know him, so I didn’t want to finish [the game],” Heath said. “I felt bad, too. It was a good thing we didn’t finish it. It was scary, too. That could’ve happened to me on the hit.”

Captain Matthew Slater, the Patriots’ longest-tenured player, led players in a prayer. Slater was later seen speaking with Belichick and LaFleur on the field.

Patriots players after the game said the scene reminded them of what happened to Damar Hamlin last season, when the Buffalo Bills cornerback suffered cardiac arrest on the field during “Monday Night Football.”

“Our primary concern is Isaiah, his well-being, and our whole team is praying for him,” Slater said. “Just hoping that things aren’t as serious as they seem.”

The 23-year-old Bolden was selected in the seventh round out of Jackson State, the only player drafted from an HBCU this year. In 2021, he led the nation (both FBS and FCS) in kickoff return average at 36.6 yards per attempt and tied for the FCS lead with two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

“He’s been a joy to be around,” Slater said of Bolden. “He’s a young man with a lot of talent, always has a smile on his face, is always positive, is always bringing great energy and effort to practice. … All the guys love him. He’s fit into our locker room seamlessly.”

Saturday’s game came after two days of joint practices in Green Bay, the second of which was marred by six separate skirmishes. Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings and Packers linebacker Keshawn Banks were each thrown out of practice by their respective coaches. Some of that even carried over to the pregame warmups, where players had to be separated.

“It was a pretty chippy week all in all,” LaFleur said. “It kind of got escalated in the pregame a little bit. Just wanted to make sure there wasn’t going to be any problems postgame. The respect that we have for each other, let’s get out of here and go home. …

“I thought it was in the best interests for both teams. Coach Belichick and I talked on the field to take the action that we took. There’s a lot of good work that we’ve had over the last couple days, but it’s hard to think about much of that. Just hope that young man’s going to be OK.”