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Dean Pees, Frank Bush recount Sunday's "scary situation" when the coordinator was taken to the hospital pregame

Frank Bush called the defense while Dean Pees was evaluated at a local hospital in New Orleans. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Kickoff was looming on Sunday when a Falcons staff member ran over to break the news to inside linebackers coach Frank Bush: Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was down on the field.

A Saints player had collided with Pees as he was chatting with sideline reporter Kristina Pink during pregame warmups. As Bush quickly made his way over to the group of team trainers and doctors who were evaluating Pees, he didn't automatically assume much of anything in terms of Pees condition.

He knew there had been a collision but by the time he got over to that part of the field, coaches were already assuring that Pees would be OK. At the time, Bush thought that meant Pees was just going to call the game from the press box like he did in 2021. He's been on the field throughout the 2022 season, but reverting back to what they did last season with Pees in the press box wouldn't be too tough. They did it for an entire season after all.

But then as trainers and doctors continued to work, Pees was loaded onto a stretcher. As this was happening, head coach Arthur Smith walked over to Bush. The plan had to change.

"You're going to have to call it," Bush remembers Smith saying to him as Pees was being taken off the field.

"I think I went numb a little bit," Bush recounted on Tuesday.


The reason Pees was sent to the hospital straight away was because he's on a specific blood thinner medication. If the collision had caused a brain bleed, the situation could have been very serious. The team doctors knew this, and knew that the only way to truly tell if there was a brain bleed was to get Pees to undergo a CT scan as soon as possible.

Pees said on Wednesday that he told those working on him in the moment that he felt OK. If they gave him a little space to get up and walk around he should be fine. Sure, he was a little beat up from the hit, but he didn't feel concussed nor was he in any great pain. It was the blood thinner medication that changed the course of action, though.

"I think if I had not been on that they might have let me at least hang around and see," Pees said.

But they took the appropriate measures, and transported Pees to University Medical Center New Orleans for further evaluations. The scans came back clean, there was "nothing going on up there," so Pees was released and cleared to fly back with the team after the game.

Pees joked: "My wife could have told them there was nothing up there, too," he laughed.

The defensive coordinator made it back to the Superdome right as Rashaan Evans was sacking Andy Dalton for a loss of nine in the early minutes of the fourth quarter. The Falcons set Pees up in one of the training rooms. They turned the game on the TV and shut off the lights. He was able to watch the final minutes of the game.

Once back in Atlanta, Pees was able to watch the game called by Bush in its entirety. Despite a slow defensive start and a few early explosives given up, the defense settled in and held their sixth straight opponent to 25 points or less.

"When I watched the film I was really proud of them," Pees said, "the team and especially the coaching staff."

Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees and cornerback A.J. Terrell #24 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

From Bush's perspective as the interim play caller, he was quick to give Pees credit, too.

"I'm not Dean Pees. He does all of the heavy lifting," Bush said. "Basically he set the table, and I was able to go out and execute the plan."

Bush said the - of course - those first two series are ones that the defense would like to have back, but after settling in they were able to "do the things that we were asking them to do," despite a situation that "wasn't normal for them."

"It scared us all, and I went numb for a while because I have such an affinity for the guy," Bush said of Pees. "He's taught me so much football in just the short amount of time that we've known each other and how to see the game, and then to have that happen you get a little bit worried… You worry about how you go forward. How do we operate?"

Linebackers coach Frank Bush on the sidelines during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday, October 30, 2022. (Photo by Kyle Hess/Atlanta Falcons)

In the end, though, the best possible outcome came out of a scary situation: Pees was OK.

He confirmed on Wednesday, too, that he was even cleared to coach on Saturday in Baltimore if he feels up to it. He's been at the Falcons facility all week prepping like normal for another opponent.

Smith said earlier in the week that they'll continue to monitor Pees' overall health, but it's looking like good news all around for the long-time defensive coordinator.


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