Arena Football player dies of presumed spinal cord injury in California By ANDREW DALTON, AP Sports LOS ANGELES (AP) - Arena Football League teammates of Al Lucas stood stunned as the 300-pound lineman they called "Big Luke" was carried motionless on a stretcher off the Staples Center floor. Lucas, 26, a former player with the NFL's Carolina Panthers, died Sunday from a presumed spinal cord injury sustained while trying to make a tackle for the Los Angeles Avengers, the team said. "There's nothing you can say about what happened," Avengers lineman Sean McNamara said. "It never entered our minds as a possibility." Players prayed on the sidelines and about 11,000 people watched from the stands as Lucas was carried from the field. He was pronounced dead at California Hospital, team physician Dr. Luga Podesta said in a statement. An autopsy was planned for Monday or Tuesday. The game continued, and players were told of his fate in the locker room after the game. Los Angeles beat New York 66-35. ``When you've got a player lying on the ground, the only thing that goes through your mind is that it could be any of us out there. Al was a great teammate,'' Avengers fullback Lonnie Ford told the Daily News of Los Angeles. ``I just wish this was a bad dream,'' receiver Tony Locke told the Los Angeles Times. Lucas was injured during a first-quarter kickoff return against the New York Dragons. Television replays showed him bending down to make a tackle. As the Dragons' ball carrier and a blocker tumbled over his head and back, the blocker's leg appeared to hit Lucas in the head. Lucas did not move after falling to the ground. Lucas was married to De'Shonda Lucas and had a daughter, Mariah. He was well-known in Macon, Ga., where he was born and lived. His father is state Rep. David Lucas, and his mother Elaine is on the Macon City Council. His younger brother, Lenny, plays for the Macon Knights in Arena Football's minor league. ``He grew up in an athletically and politically based childhood,'' Steve Edwards, Lucas's former coach at Macon's Northeast High School, told the Macon Telegraph. ``He was a super person and a super athlete.'' Lucas attended Troy State University in Alabama, where he played from 1996 to 1999. He was named the top defensive player in NCAA Division I-AA his senior season. He played two seasons for the Carolina Panthers in 2000 and 2001, recording 49 1/2 tackles in 20 games.