Tuesday, March 24, 2009

'Today' host Matt Lauer injured in bike accident with a deer

The popular "Today" show host suffered a separated shoulder over the weekend when an errant deer sent him flying off his bicycle and rushing to a hospital.

"Matt was cycling on Long Island and was going pretty fast downhill," "Today" executive producer Jim Bell told the Daily News Monday.

"A deer kind of came out of nowhere and in an effort to avoid hitting the deer, Matt slammed on the brakes and went flying. He separated his shoulder."

Lauer, 51, who owns property in Sag Harbor, was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident on Saturday.

He missed Monday's show, and - no surprise - became the butt of some good-natured jokes from his colleagues.

"Today" co-anchor Meredith Viera said on air that Lauer had joked with her in an e-mail that the deer was "hired by the competition." In response, Viera said, "I'd hire the deer - but just to graze him."

Bell said when he spoke with Lauer on Saturday, he sounded "reasonably well" and he expects he'll be back on the job later this week. "I don't want to jinx it, but he feels like he can do it," Bell said.

"Today" weekend co-anchor and NBC Nightly News' anchorman Lester Holt will fill Lauer's slot in the meantime. "Lester's coming out of the bullpen," Bell said.

"The weekend folks are kind enough to lend him to us. We're blessed with a deep bench at NBC News."

Lauer is an avid cyclist and has biked for several "Today" segments in the past, including for the Beijing Olympics and last year's "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" trip to the Netherlands.

Though the near-collision was a serious incident and a "good reminder about the importance of helmets," Bell joked that the "Today" team is currently "in discussions to see who might be in the deer costume when [Lauer] returns to the studio."


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