Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware was hospitalized Sunday night with a sprained neck, sustained when he slammed headfirst into a San Diego Chargers lineman.
The Cowboys said Ware was "aware and alert with full movement and strength in his extremities" when he was taken off the field. He was transported to the hospital for X-rays and further evaluation.
"Initially, it looks like right at the base (of his neck), he had a sprain," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We feel very good about everything was moving, everything was going. It was just by the nature of where it was. ... The doctors felt good."
After getting hurt early in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 20-17 loss Sunday, Ware was immobilized on a stretcher and carted off the field after several anxious moments. Teammates Marcus Spears and Terence Newman went over to Ware and spoke to the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker while he was being loaded onto a cart.
Jones was shown on TV in his box with his face buried in his hands as Ware was being worked on.
"I just made sure he was OK. I told him, 'God bless you,' just like everybody else did," Spears said. "Everybody said prayers for him, but I just wanted to see him move a part of his body. And when he did that, I knew he was OK."
As he was being taken off the field, Ware waved both hands, giving a thumbs-up and flashing a "W" with his fingers. He was also talking to people around him.
"The good thing is we saw him moving. Definitely from that indication, things weren't going to be too bad," Newman said. "But the fact you're taken off on a stretcher, you're still always nervous."
Ware was pursing quarterback Philip Rivers when he collided into Brandyn Dombrowski. Ware's head went straight into Dombrowski's upper leg, the linebacker remained on the ground.
"We all love DeMarcus and obviously he's an incredible player," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "But more important to all of us, he's a great guy and he's a joy to be around. Rain or shine he has a smile on his face and he's always lifting everybody's spirit. We'll be praying for him."
In October, Ware agreed to a $78 million, six-year contract extension through the 2015 season that included a $20 million signing bonus. The 27-year-old Ware was in the final year of the contract he signed after being the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft.
The Cowboys drafted Ware over Shawne Merriman, who was taken the next pick by the Chargers. The two standout defenders have been ever-linked since. They keep in contact with each other, consider each other friends, and were playing in the same regular-season game for the first time.
"I told him I'd call and check up on him," Merriman said. "It sounds like he's in good shape. I think it was just precautionary."
Jones said it was too early to know how long Ware might be out.
The Cowboys (8-5) play at undefeated New Orleans on Saturday night.
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