BETHLEHEM — It was the sort of image that gets aired on TV with a warning that you might prefer not to view it, Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder noted.
Ron Johnson, a wide receiver who spent most of last season on the Eagles' practice squad, suffered a gruesome right ankle dislocation and apparent fracture when his cleats seemed to catch and he fell awkwardly during a 7-on-7 drill Monday. Burkholder said Johnson was transported to the Lehigh Valley Hospital for treatment, which could include surgery.
Burkholder confirmed what onlookers reported — that Johnson tried to pull his ankle back together as he lay on the ground, his foot at a 90-degree angle to his leg. Johnson was unsuccessful, as was the Eagles' medical staff.
"It wouldn't stay in. He's got some damage in there," Burkholder said.
"He was in a lot of pain ... my assistant, Joe O'Pella, did the right thing by covering it up with a towel, so the kid doesn't see it and get freaked out and go into shock," Burkholder said. "It's one of those things that goes through our minds every day, that could happen, we practice it, and take care of it. Unfortunately for the kid, it hurts."
Johnson, who turns 24 on Friday, was drafted in the sixth round last year by San Francisco, then acquired by the Eagles through waivers. He was added to the roster just before the 2011 season finale. Johnson had a good spring and was off to a strong start in camp, showing quickness and good hands.
"I really like him," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's been coming on since we got him. He's been improving every day. He worked out all offseason like a wild man. You hate seeing that. He's a great, great kid and a good player, too. He's a phenomenal player. He really had a chance to do something with our football team. It's tough. This is going to be a setback for him, but he's a battler, and he'll battle through it. It's hard. That's the toughest part about the game."
Safety O.J. Atogwe stayed by Johnson as he was attended to on the field.
"I just wanted to show him some comfort and some love, some mercy," Atogwe said. He said he had been in Johnson's position. "Just to have the support of your teammates, their presence, can help you calm down and relax ... I was just praying for him, man, praying that God would keep him and give him some peace. Injuries are tough to deal with, but you always come out on the other side of it. I just wanted him to be positive, and not to be in any despair.
“He just fell awkwardly and landed over top of his body. Sometimes the body falls in ways it ain't supposed to."
DeSean Jackson said Johnson is "like a little brother" to him. "I could just hear him saying this year was going to be his year, and things like that," Jackson said. "He has a lot of upside, a lot of talent. It's an unfortunate situation. This game we play is definitely brutal."
Later in the practice, DeSean Jackson and corner Brandon Hughes came to blows, ending a back-and-forth that began when Jackson snazzily faked out Hughes after a short catch and took off.
"I don't worry about that man, it was an incident ... we threw a couple of blows," Jackson said. "It's a part of football and a part of training camp. Obviously, you can't do that during the regular season ... out here on the field, it's tense like that, heat, tired, it's a part of the game, man.
“Scuffles ... like that happen. He's not a starter, I'm a starter, so as far as any of that type of stuff, I don't really care. Whoever it is, it is. It's part of the game."
Afterward, coaching intern and former Eagles wideout Greg Lewis pulled Jackson aside. Jackson said Lewis reminded him he was a starter and a leader.
"He didn't want me getting hurt — me being out there, anything stupid happen, whatever it is," Jackson said.
The Eagles announced that wide receiver Riley Cooper underwent successful surgery to repair his broken left collarbone. He is expected back in about 6 weeks … Defensive end Jason Babin's MRI confirmed that he strained his right calf. The team offered no timetable for Babin's return … Michael Vick has formed a new charitable endeavor, the Team Vick Foundation, a nonprofit that aims "to provide second chances and support to individuals and communities who need it most," according to a press release. In the release, Vick spoke of the importance of finding "a way to give back that provided support and encouragement for those who have fallen off course and may have lost their way."
Contact Les Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.eagletarian.com.