EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** A day after he celebrated the beginning of a new life, Steve Weatherford endured an uncomfortable brush with death.
On Saturday, Weatherford's wife Laura gave birth to the couple's fourth child and third daughter, Josie Jaclyn, in Southern California. Early this morning, the Giants' punter was in a one-car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that left him, "very fortunate to be alive."
Weatherford's odyssey began with a hospital visit with Laura and Josie. From there, he headed to the San Diego airport and a cross-country flight to Newark. Weatherford wanted to be on the field today for the Giants' organized team activity. But stormy weather in the New York metropolitan area forced his plane to be diverted to Washington, D.C., where he landed at 11 p.m. Weatherford rented a car and set out for New Jersey.
Three hours into the trip, Weatherford was passing Exit 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike when he came upon a "pretty thick pool of water" while driving at an estimated 68-70 miles per hour. The car hydroplaned, spun around several times and slammed into the median, causing the air bags to deploy. The car was totaled, but Weatherford walked away with little more than a scratch on his lip.
"The soreness is starting to sink in a little bit, but I am just feeling so blessed," Weatherford said at his locker after practice today. "Not even with the birth of my daughter, but just being here. I have always been an optimistic guy, but after the experience last night, there is no other way to explain than a blessing.
"I take pride in always taking a positive perspective, but when something like that happens, you realize everyone is human. It was a big deal. I am very fortunate to be standing here."
Weatherford missed the team's workouts last week to be with his family. Tom Coughlin told him to take whatever time he wanted, but Weatherford said he had a good reason for rushing back to the team.
"I would have missed practice," he said. "Today is punt day."
The Giants were happy to welcome Weatherford back to the field, but were happier that he was safe and healthy.
"Thank goodness that he is okay," Coughlin said. "That was a scary, scary thing."
Coughlin said he pondered the possibility of Weatherford celebrating the birth of his child to almost losing his life.
"(It is a) difficult thing to talk about," Coughlin said. "That is the first thing that popped into my mind as well. He rushed to get back here. Obviously, the weather caused a different set of plans. Then there was another set of plans when he was in Washington. He is close to finally arriving here and he runs into the water.
Check out photos of punter Steve Weatherford from the 2014 season
"He has been home quite a while. They anticipated, so he was anxious. We shared the fact that it was a difficult thing under those circumstances to leave your wife and newborn, but he wanted to get back here and he wanted to get back on the field with his teammates. He was saying all along when the baby was born he would be on a plane the next day."
Weatherford said he drove through heavy rain for about 20 minutes, but it had stopped at the time of the accident.
"I felt confident," he said. "It was just a four-hour drive. It wasn't a torrential downpour. But the part where I got into the wreck, it had stopped raining probably for a good 30 minutes, so I was just cruising along at the speed limit. Then (a) plugged drain created that pool of water. So you never know.
"It was 3 o'clock in the morning, but it was midnight for me. After being on a plane for eight hours and then sitting around the airport for two hours … but I was prepared. I packed my meals. I was fueled."
Weatherford will not easily forget the details of his frightening accident – and remarkably, a second one moments later.
"To be honest with you, I don't know how many times I spun around, but after maybe the second, third or fourth one, I started to see the median coming at me," he said. "I braced up and was incredibly blessed the air bag deployed. I have a couple cuts, burns and a busted lip, but I walked out of the car.
"The crazy thing was I put my blinkers on and pulled my phone out of my pocket and was just getting ready to call 911, not because I needed medical attention, but I knew it was a dangerous situation with a car just sitting on the New Jersey Turnpike. Before I could call 911, I look behind me and hear a splash and turn around and there is a Nissan Maxima that was hydroplaning as well and then ran into my car going faster than what I was. I sprint over to the car and try to look in the driver side. There are air bags covering it. Then I tried to open the door. It was bent. I tried to open the door behind that and that was bent up. Run over to the other side and finally the fourth door that I tried to open, I had to jiggle it a couple times and then put my foot on the car to pry it open. I peeked inside and the guy was completely knocked out and gushing blood from his nose. I was a little bit nervous at that point not to touch his neck, and so I was trying to jostle his shoulder to wake him up because if he can move we have to get him out of the car because it is about to be a pile up. After about 20 seconds, he woke up and I was able to unbuckle him and pull him out of the back of the car and then he spilled himself onto the New Jersey Turnpike and then we got onto the shoulder and called the New Jersey state police and they were there in less than 10 minutes. It makes you realize how fragile life is."