Best recovering from concussion
BERKELEY, Calif. -- California star tailback Jahvid Best is resting at home following his frightening fall and concussion and the team has not talked about when he could possibly return to the football field.
"That's the furthest thing from our mind, when he's going to come back and play football," coach Jeff Tedford said Tuesday. "The No. 1 concern is his health and his well-being. If he doesn't play again this year, so be it. We haven't even discussed that and will not discuss it until probably much later on."
The Golden Bears (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10) host Arizona (No. 17 BCS, No. 18 AP) on Saturday before finishing the season with road games at Stanford on Nov. 21 and Washington on Dec. 5.
Best was injured in Saturday's 31-14 loss to Oregon State when he hurdled a defender at the end of a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Best vaulted into the air over Oregon State safety Cameron Collins and then was bumped even higher by another defender before falling on his back and head from about eight feet in the air.
Best's helmet came off on impact and he briefly lost consciousness, dealing a chilling scare to his teammates.
"I saw him in the air and first I marveled at how high he was, then I realized his body would fall down the way it did," fullback Brian Holley said. "As soon as I looked at his face, I realized something wasn't right."
Best's jersey was removed and he was wearing an oxygen mask when he was carted out of the stadium. He spent Saturday night in the hospital for tests and observation before returning to his parents' home in Vallejo on Sunday.
Tedford said Best told him earlier Tuesday that he is feeling better but still has a sore back and some headaches.
None of Best's teammates has seen him since he left the field on a stretcher, communicating mostly by text message these last few days as he recovers.
"You're just worried about the person, you don't really care about the football player," linebacker Eddie Young said. "You just worry about him being able to bounce back and get healthy. I just want Jahvid Best the person -- not No. 4 -- to be better."
Backup Shane Vereen has talked to Best a few times on the phone, making sure his close friend is doing fine and is encouraged by what he hears.
"He seems to be the same old Jahvid," Vereen said. "I'm sure he's bummed he won't be able to play. But he doesn't seem that down. He seems like himself."
As big a loss as Best is on the field -- where he has scored 16 touchdowns, rushed for 867 yards and provided highlight-reel plays almost every week -- his loss is felt even more off of it.
He is a quiet leader who is close to many teammates on both sides of the ball and his teammates said it will be uplifting when he is able to return to campus.
"He's one of those guys who has a special aura around him," offensive lineman Mike Tepper said. "He's a very humble guy, very quiet. When he walks into a room, he doesn't need to say very much because everyone knows he's there. When you miss that, it's different. You notice that."
Making the latest injury even more concerning is that Best also had a mild concussion the previous week against Arizona State. Tedford said Best reported mild symptoms the day after the game and returned to practice on Thursday after being cleared by doctors the previous day.
Cal players all get baseline testing before the season that measure balance, memory, reaction and recognition. Players are tested again after a concussion to compare the post-concussion results to the healthy ones. Tedford said Best surpassed his baseline tests last week before being allowed to practice.
"I have a lot of confidence in our medical team," Tedford said. "It's been the protocol here for a long time and we've been fine with it. We don't ever take any chances with that. We're very strict with that. We don't even let them come back to practice until they're 24-hour symptom-free. Over the years, we've been very careful with that and we will continue to be."
Tedford said he thought the first concussion had no impact on the second one, saying anybody probably would have gotten one after such a horrific fall.
Tedford said he won't discourage players from hurdling defenders in the future, calling the injury a "freak deal."
"It's an unfortunate play that happened on the field," he said. "You get up in the air and you get tipped and you get upside down. You can't blame anybody for it, it's just an unfortunate play."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press