NEW ORLEANS (AP)Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees was released from a hospital and cleared to fly home with the team following a pre-game collision that resulted in the 73-year-old being taken from the field to an ambulance on a stretcher.

Pees was run into by New Orleans Saints returner Rashid Shaheed, who was trying to field a punted ball during warmups. It appeared that Pees’ head was struck by Shaheed’s helmet in the collision. Pees appeared to be speaking with someone on the sideline and caught off guard by the impact.

”I was backing up to catch a punt and I kind of just ran into him,” Shaheed said after New Orleans’ 21-18 win. ”I turned around and saw him stretched out. So, immediately I was concerned.”

Rahseed added he was ”thankful” to hear Pees was OK, adding, ”if he sees this, I’m sorry.”

Medical personnel quickly gathered around the longtime NFL assistant, placed him on a stretcher and carted him off the field.

The Falcons said in a statement shortly after the collision that Pees was stable, alert and responsive when he was taken to University Medical Center New Orleans for testing.

Frank Bush served as interim defensive play-caller for Sunday’s game.

”Obviously that was a scary moment in the pre-game,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. ”Certainly the defensive staff deserves a lot of credit” for how it carried on without Pees.

”We called the guys up in warm-ups, said our prayers for him, updated them and were honest about the situation,” Smith said. ”The guys rallied and thankfully Dean’s all right.”

Pees is in his second season as Atlanta’s defensive coordinator after serving in the same post at Tennessee (2018-19), Baltimore (2012-17) and New England (2006-09).

Between 1979 and 2003, Pees also coached in various capacities at Findlay, Miami (Ohio), Navy, Toledo, Notre Dame, Michigan State and finally Kent State, where he was head coach from 1998-2003.

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