Week 1 breakdown: Everett, NFC woes, Pats' new look
Posted: Monday September 10, 2007 8:44AM; Updated: Monday September 10, 2007 11:32AM
"Aren't you glad it's finally football season? I am.''
-- New England quarterback Tom Brady, after his eighth NFL season began successfully in New Jersey on Sunday.
NEW YORK -- The opener of the NFL season has become an American holiday. You can feel it just like Brady, can't you? Whether you play fantasy football (and the only guy I know who doesn't is the man who loves the game more than anyone I know, Paul Zimmerman) or pay for the satellite service so you can flip from one game to another, or just follow one team religiously, it's a day so many of us have been looking forward to since the week after the Super Bowl.
You want to get excited -- and I promise you'll be excited in a few paragraphs -- but Dick Jauron's voice and one violent collision in Buffalo make it hard to have that boundless feeling of love for the game. On Sunday, 1,195 players who suited up for the games got to walk away from stadiums after the 13 games were completed. One didn't.
Kevin Everett, a backup tight end for the Bills, lay motionless on the field in Buffalo after colliding with Denver's Domenik Hixon on a kickoff return. Everett didn't move as he was placed on a immobilization board and packed into an ambulance for a trip to the hospital. And when the Bills lost a heartbreaking game to Denver in the last millisecond on a keystone-cops field goal by Jason Elam, the emotion of the defeat barely registered to many of the players.
"It was a very somber locker room, and it wasn't because of the loss,'' Jauron said evenly, but with a touch of his own emotion, 90 minutes after the game. "Everything for us right now is focused on Kevin. He has a cervical spine injury and is being treated for it right now.''
A cervical spine injury. Those are among the worse words a player can hear. Everett underwent a surgical procedure Sunday night, and one player who left the hospital afterward said he didn't know what Everett's condition was or whether he had moved his limbs. Obviously, we all want to know if Everett has moved any of his extremities, but that's going to have to wait, one hospital source said, until after 12 to 24 hours of observation and letting the swelling go down.
We don't know much about Everett. He is 25, a third-round pick out of Miami in 2005. His pro career has had a dark cloud over it from the first day. During his first mini-camp practice, he suffered a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery and ended his rookie year before it began. He started four games and played in 16 last year, ending up almost like Moonlight Graham. Everett caught one pass for one yard. Now this.
"You know every time you suit up this can happen,'' former star running back Jerome Bettis said at NBC on Sunday night, "but you try not to think about it. It's a part of the job you have to accept or you can't play.''
Bruce Smith was at the stadium Sunday, celebrating Steve Tasker's entrance onto the Bills' Wall of Fame. I remember Smith once telling me that he was sacrificing his body so that so many people in future generations of his family could have good lives. I'm sure he has body parts that hurt in the morning when he rolls out of bed, but there he was Sunday, at 44, standing and applauding Tasker. We watch these games and hope the Everett stories never happen, but they do -- on all levels of football. There's little else to say, other than this from Jauron that so many of you will echo: "We're all hoping and praying for a great outcome.''