CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Oct. 22, the day before the Carolina Panthers’ home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-year-old defensive end Henry Anderson was at home with his wife when his legs and arms went numb and his speech became blurred.
“It was a stroke, so it’s basically like a blood clot in your brain,” Anderson said Wednesday.
After countless tests with medical experts locally and nationally that couldn’t determine what caused the stroke, the Panthers on Wednesday opened Anderson’s 21-day window to return from the NFL’s non-football illness list.
Anderson, who hadn’t revealed why he was out until Wednesday, has no hesitation about playing.
“I’m a football player,” he said. “If I’m cleared to play, I want to be out there and play football because that’s what I love to do. I’ve been injured several times throughout my career, and it’s always kind of overwhelming when you’re injured and not with the team, so if the doctors say I’m good to go and I’ve got clearance I want to be out there with my guys and playing with my brothers.”
Interim coach Steve Wilks said he’s hopeful Anderson will be available Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks (7-5). The Panthers (4-8) are two games behind first-place Tampa Bay (6-6) in the NFC South with five to go.
The 6-foot-6, 301-pound Anderson would provide depth to a unit that has given up an average of 159.4 yards rushing in its last five games.
The third-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2015 said he’s felt “pretty normal” since doctors removed the clot.
“Running around doing drills, I just felt good,” he said.
Anderson said he didn’t know much about clots before he had the stroke, but learned through doctors that other professional athletes have had then and continued playing.
“I’m glad that I was kind of oblivious to what happened because there would have been a lot more panic,” Anderson said. “I’m definitely lucky.”
Anderson said he immediately knew something was wrong the day before the Bucs game when his legs and other extremities went numb. He called the Carolina medical staff and soon afterward was taken to a Charlotte hospital where he spent several days undergoing tests after the clot was removed.
Teammates weren’t immediately told details other than Anderson would not play against the Bucs the next day.
“I just kind of remember him not being at the meeting for personal reasons,” defensive end Brian Burns said. “They didn’t tell us right away what happened. Once you found out, yeah, it was a little scary.”
Anderson said he underwent every test imaginable to determine what caused the stroke.
“Every test we ran came back negative,” he said. “It was just something where I just kind of got unlucky, honestly.”
Anderson said while he thought a lot about football while out, what happened didn’t change his perspective on playing.
“I don’t know how to say it,” Anderson said. “After speaking with everybody and realizing that I avoided anything major and got really lucky, it kind of like eased my mind.”