Running back Tevin Coleman has provided Atlanta with a nice change of pace in the backfield alongside Devonta Freeman this season.
Through four games the duo have combined for 459 yards and five touchdowns to make up the NFL’s sixth-ranked rushing offense. But the mile high altitude of Sports Authority Field in Denver could force the second-year player to sit out Sunday’s game against the Broncos for health reasons.
Coleman has sickle cell trait—a trait of the blood disorder sickle cell disease that in athletes can increase the chances of heat stroke and muscle breakdown. And in the low oxygen environment of a place like Denver, the dangers are multiplied exponentially.
“It does make me scared a little bit, a little nervous, because I’m risking my life,’’ Coleman told ESPN.com. “We’ll have to see. I’ll have to talk to coach [Dan Quinn]. I guess coach will see how I feel when we get there.”
Retired Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark suffered the same affliction and had a serious scare after a 2007 game in Denver. Clark got sick and had to have his spleen and gall bladder removed, and was sidelined for much of the season. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin kept Clark out of every Denver game thereafter.