FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (AP) - Bobby Petrino walked slower than normal, his face swollen and red. You couldn’t miss the white brace around the Arkansas coach’s neck.
But the fact that Petrino was even at Razorback Stadium on Tuesday, hours after being released from the hospital following a weekend motorcycle crash, was remarkable.
The 51-year-old spoke for the first time since Sunday night’s accident, minutes before the Razorbacks opened practice. Petrino observed the session in the press box, cleared to do so by doctors after being released from the hospital late Tuesday morning.
The accident occurred on Arkansas Highway 16 in Madison County, about 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville, and Petrino said he wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
The avid motorcycle enthusiast said he plans to wear one in the future, particularly after suffering four broken ribs in his upper chest and cracking the outside of the C-2 vertebra in his back.
“I’m very fortunate,” Petrino said. “I feel very lucky to be here and be in good health.”
Petrino said he was returning home after an evening ride on the scenic road, a favorite of local motorcyclists. He had ridden in the area before but remembers noticing the sun in his eyes moments before the accident.
“I remember coming around the curve, I was noticing the sun was going to be in my eyes the rest of the way home,” Petrino said. “And then there got to a point where I was not going to be able to maneuver the turn.
“It seemed like 15 seconds where I said, `Oh no, here I go.’”
State police spokesman Bill Sadler said Tuesday that Petrino’s accident report wasn’t ready for release yet, but Petrino said he ended up in the ditch following the crash. Petrino said a passing car was waiting when he climbed from the ditch and took him to meet his state police escort before the two went the rest of the way to the hospital.
Razorbacks running back Knile Davis found out about the accident via Twitter when he woke up Monday morning. Davis immediately texted Petrino to express his concern, and he and his teammates weren’t surprised in the least to see the coach address the team Tuesday and return to practice.
“That’s just him,” Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. “He works hard, and he cares a whole lot about what he does.
“… You’ll never have to question that.”
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was in New Orleans on Sunday night at the time of Petrino’s accident, preparing for a Monday meeting with NCAA president Mark Emmert. Long found out about the accident at approximately 1 a.m. Monday morning and flew home to see Petrino.
He said the coach, who just completed his fourth season with the Razorbacks, looked much different on Monday morning than he did at his Tuesday afternoon news conference.