Fowler

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Former NFL linebacker Ryan Fowler injured a player in a violent, accidental collision during a Ravenwood High School football practice on Wed. Sept. 18, multiple sources said.

Fowler, an assistant coach, donned shells-- light under-pads -- and a helmet and took on the role of a defender in drills, something he’s done periodically during his time as an assistant coach to the delight of the team.

He filled a gap against a pulling offensive lineman and the two met in a crunching impact that left the player with a concussion.

It was the sort of contact that could happen in a practice between two players. But a 37-year old former professional football player’s involvement in such a scenario raises serious questions about the protocol and procedures in place and the judgment of Fowler and those who oversee him.

"I’ve been instructed not to comment," Fowler said via text. "Which is unfortunate because I’d like to set it straight. But I’ve been here before. I’ll just keep my mouth shut and respectfully let you do your job."

Two separate people who saw the impact between Fowler and the player characterized it as “dangerous” and “very bad.” But others connected to the program were unaware anything had happened.

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Indications are the player missed school for an extended period of time.

Ravenwood coach Matt Daniels declined to comment Wednesday evening citing HIPPA laws that protect injury information.

“Our county communications director and AD will definitely want to be involved with such accusations,” he texted. “I can have then call you in the A.M.”IMG 0320

But communications director for Williamson County Schools Carol Birdsong did not reach out and when she was contacted early Thursday she said she knew nothing about it.

Reached again Thursday Daniels referred questions to Birdsong.

"This is what I know so far," Birdsong said Thursday afternoon. "The school administration will be investigating the allegations. I don’t have a timeline of when the investigation will be completed."

UPDATE: Fri. Oct. 4:

Matthew Gillespie, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, expressed concerns when presented with a scenario where a coach would don pads and engage in a contact drill with players.

“The TSSAA Bylaws state that only students who are enrolled and in regular attendance at a school may participate in practice,” he said. “If a football coach were to suit up in pads, that would not only be a violation, but the school should be more concerned with potential liability issues. If the coach were to injure a player in that scenario, a potential TSSAA rules violation would be the least of their problems.

“On a side note, there was a school a while back that was penalized for having a former player who they invited back, who suited up and went through drills with players. No injuries, but it was a violation of the rules since they were not enrolled at the school. Again, a potential liability as well, putting a college-age kid on the field with high school kids.”

UPDATE, Fri. Oct. 4: Gillespie circled back with an update of the TSSAA's stance.

"Have not spoken to Ravenwood. Would be up to the schools if they want to develop a rule to cover that. Not sure if it's needed, cause as mentioned yesterday, you would think the concern of liability alone would be enough to prohibit it, but I guess not. In other sports, coaches participate all the time. BP/fungo in baseball, basketball coaches in drills, volleyball etc. But, football is different due to the contact."

Fowler, the team’s inside linebackers and assistant special teams coach, has coached in at least one game, a 25-13 loss at Brentwood on Sept. 20, since the accident that inflicted the injury.

Though we know who the Ravenwood player is, we are electing not to use his name as he is a minor.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedFowler played at Duke and joined the Cowboys in 2004 as an undrafted free agent. He played for Dallas for three seasons before jumping to Tennessee as an unrestricted free agent. He was the Titans’ starting middle linebacker in 2007 and was a reserve in 2008 before finishing his career with one season with the New York Jets.

He was named defensive coordinator at Ravenwood in the spring of 2016 when Richie Wessman became head coach. Wessman left after one season and Daniels was promoted from defensive backs coach to head coach in Feb. of 2017.

The Williamson Herald reported in May that Reggie Grimes took over as defensive coordinator and that Daniels said Fowler would remain on staff with the Raptors, but only be available part-time to assist.

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Chad Withrow of TNHighSchoolFootball.com contributed to this report.

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