There is no blueprint to follow when the playing field becomes a place of death, as it did Sunday at Staples Center for Los Angeles Avenger lineman Al Lucas.
"There's no manual on this," said Casey Wasserman, owner of the Arena Football League team. "It's a tough thing. There's lots of emotion involved."
Lucas, 26, suffered an apparent spinal injury while making a tackle during the first quarter of the Avengers' game against the New York Dragons. After he didn't respond to on-field treatment, his motionless body was taken to California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead at 1:28 p.m.
The game resumed after Lucas was hurt, and, after the normal halftime break, players and officials returned to the field for the third quarter. At that point, they knew only that Lucas was seriously injured.
League and team officials were told of Lucas' death during the third quarter, AFL Commissioner David Baker said. He did not suspend the game because the Avengers couldn't immediately reach Lucas' family in Georgia and the Avengers wanted family members to get the news from a team spokesman, not secondhand.
"The most important thing was, once we knew, to get hold of the family," Wasserman said. "God forbid that they would have found out from anybody but me or the doctor."
That, according to Wasserman, made not canceling the game a "pretty easy" decision.
Baker had been watching his son's spring scrimmage at USC and scrambled to Staples Center after Wasserman called him with news of Lucas' injury. He arrived minutes before the first half ended.
"We got the two coaches together and advised them there had been a serious injury and advised them to talk to the teams," Baker said Monday. "The coaches told me players wanted to continue. I'm guessing about five to 10 minutes after they went onto the field we were advised the doctors had pronounced him dead. At that point in time, we had again to think through whatever precedents there might have been.
"The NFL, to the best of our knowledge, had never called a game. NASCAR, if someone passes, they finish the race. An amusement park, if somebody is killed, they don't close the park, they close the ride."
Baker also said he was concerned announcing Lucas' death would upset children and parents in the crowd. "I'm not sure the best way to find out about that is through the public-address announcer," Baker said.
No player has been declared dead on the field of play in North America's professional ball-and-bat sports, but several have died hours or days later from injuries they incurred during games.
Detroit Lion receiver Chuck Hughes was declared dead after a 1971 game in which he suffered a heart attack and collapsed. Cleveland Indian shortstop Ray Chapman died a day after he was hit in the head by a pitch from New York Yankee pitcher Carl Mays in 1920, and Minnesota North Stars forward Bill Masterton died 27 hours after he fell backward and struck his bare head against the ice on Jan. 11, 1968.
The Avengers are scheduled to play at Nashville on Sunday, but that could change, depending on funeral plans, which were pending. Avenger receiver Brian Sump said the team would prefer not to play if a memorial service is scheduled for the weekend.
A trust fund to aid Lucas' wife, De'Shondra, and daughter, Mariah, is being set up by the National Football League Players' Association, which includes AFL players.