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Patriots' Calvin Anderson battled life-threatening case of malaria before 2023 NFL season

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BOSTON -- Calvin Anderson was one of the first free-agent signings for the Patriots in March 2023, as head coach Bill Belichick identified the offensive tackle as a potentially valuable piece for a team in need of help at the position. Yet just before training camp, Anderson was placed on the non-football injury list with an unspecified condition, and he ended up playing in just five games.

Now we know what it was that kept Anderson off the field last summer, and it's quite a serious matter.

The Boston Globe's Christopher Price reported that Anderson battled a case of malaria last year, one that had doctors giving him a 50-50 chance of survival.

Anderson contracted the disease while on a trip to Nigeria, where he and his wife (who is half-Nigerian) were doing some philanthropic work. Price reported that Anderson ran a fever of 104.5 degrees and was taken to the hospital by his wife.

Anderson, who was 27 years old last year, was released from the hospital after four days. He was activated off the NFI list at the end of August, and he 100 percent of the Patriots' offensive snaps in Weeks 1 and 2. He played all right in that season opener but struggled mightily on Sunday Night Football against the Dolphins in Week 2, leading to him taking zero snaps in his next three games played and being inactive for three games. 

Anderson was placed on injured reserve in early November, again with an unexplained injury. Price detailed that Anderson suffered a heart contusion from a collision at practice

"They get on the sideline and I sat down, and my heartbeat wouldn't stop. It just kept going … boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. I'm sitting there, at rest, and my heartbeat is just going," Anderson told Price. "We ended up going and getting it checked out, and after a long period of time trying to figure out what it was, the cardiologist assessed it was a heart contusion from a hit. They didn't really know what was causing it. But just imagine how rare this is. We get hit in the chest on every single play as an O-lineman. It just so happened that it was a combination of the position I was in and not seeing it, it caused temporary damage to my heart. Like a bruise."

After the story published on Tuesday, Anderson posted a video on Instagram explaining his situation. Anderson's wife, Sherée, said that doctors at the hospital told her, "If you brought him a few hours later, he literally would have died." 

Though Bill Belichick -- the man who signed Anderson as a rookie free agent in 2019 and then made sure to sign him for real as a free agent in 2023 -- is not longer in charge, Anderson will be taking the field in Foxboro in 2024 looking to prove the former coach right for making that signing a year ago.

"This isn't a sob story, this is a triumph," Anderson wrote in his Instagram caption. "This is the return."

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