Jordan Poyer thought the wind got knocked out of him.
After taking a crushing blindside hit during a punt return in a loss to the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago, the Browns safety rolled around on the grass and took off his helmet in obvious pain.
"I just needed to breathe, I just couldn't breathe at the time, I needed as much air at the time," Poyer said Monday afternoon. "That's really what I thought it was, I just needed to catch my breath."
But as he walked off the field alongside the team's doctors and training staff, he knew something wasn't right.
As it turned out, Poyer suffered a lacerated kidney and was taken to a Nashville hospital. The fifth-year player downplayed the gravity of the situation, saying it was "more scary for my mom and my dad and my family," who were trying to get a hold of him after they watched the hit happen on TV.
"It was a little frightening but I was more worried about if we were winning the game," Poyer said, laughing. "I told them, 'Find the game somewhere!' I just wanted to watch the game, that's all I wanted to do. But they took care of me really well out there."
Indeed, Poyer returned to Cleveland last week and re-joined his teammates in the locker room. In his first meeting with reporters since being placed on injured reserve last week, he expressed disappointment in knowing his season is over.
"It's frustrating just because I still feel like I could run around go out there and do the things that I want to do," Poyer said, "but it's just time is going to heal it. I'm unable to lift, unable to run and it's really frustrating. But at the same time, God's got a plan for me and it's bigger than anything that I know."
Poyer, who started all six games at free safety for the Browns, was trending upward with his play, head coach Hue Jackson said.
"He had, probably in my opinion, one of his best weeks in practice, and I think he was looking to have a tremendous game," Jackson said last week. "That's a blow for us because he is one of our better players, but we want to wish him well and a speedy recovery."
Poyer, in addition to his role on the defense, was also a key member of Cleveland's special teams.
"Jordan Poyer is one of the class guys on our team and in my room, one of the leaders," special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said Friday. "He is a heart and soul type player for us that pumps blood through our room. To lose him, it hurts us."
Poyer, who said he's still trying to process the reality of being unable to play this season, said a scary 48 hours in Tennessee won't linger in the back of his mind the next time he suits up.
"If they told me today I could put my pads on I'd be out there in my pads. As soon as I'm healthy to play and able to get back in the gym and able to get back doing my routines and able to getting back ready for next season, I'm going to be all in for it," he said.
"I can't wait, It's only going to drive me, make me a better person and a better player. Now that it's already happened, now that' I've looked ahead, I'm excited for this journey."
Poyer added: "I appreciate the game, I've always appreciated the game. To have it taken away from you like that on a bang-bang play, yeah, I guess you could say you appreciate it a little more.
"I love this game," he continued. "It's definitely not the last you've seen of me on a football field. I can promise you that."