All-Pro linebacker Joey Porter gave the Steelers a big lift just three weeks after suffering a gunshot wound
Early in the morning of Aug. 31, in the parking lot of a Denver sports bar, the sound of a gunshot pierced the air. The 150 or so people who had congregated in the lot scrambled in every direction, and three more shots rang out. As he ran toward the entrance to the club, Joey Porter, the Steelers' All-Pro linebacker, felt what he thought was a kick in the left buttock, but that was the least of his concerns. This was a life-or-death situation, and Porter had three kids and a wife pregnant with twins back home in Pittsburgh. He heard at least two more shots just before he darted back through the door of the club and saw a man take a bullet in the chest.
"Man, did you see that out there?" Porter said, breathlessly, to a barmaid. He thought, How lucky am I? Nearby, a couple of people discovered they had been hit. Porter thought he was unharmed, but he saw others checking themselves for bullet wounds. So he turned to the barmaid and said, "Am I shot?"
She saw blood trickling down his left leg. What Porter thought had been a kick in the butt was the impact of a 9-mm bullet that had entered his buttock and lodged in his right thigh.
Thoughts started racing through Porter's mind: There is no way I can die. This can't be happening to me. My kids. My wife. The twins on the way. Am I finished? Will I ever play again? Will the Steelers just dump me? Where's the damn bullet?
Talk about your comeback stories. Exactly three weeks after the shooting and 20 days after having the bullet removed from his thigh, Porter took the field in his customary weakside linebacker spot, for a game against the Bengals in Cincinnati. And he played a significant role in Pittsburgh's 17-10 win. Porter was on the field for about 70% of the Steelers' defensive plays, recovered an ill-advised lateral from fellow linebacker Jason Gildon on an interception return deep in Pittsburgh territory, and had two tackles and a 14-yard sack of Jon Kitna that ended a Cincinnati possession late in the third quarter.
"Three weeks ago we were just happy he was alive," Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen said afterward. "For him to come out and play like he played today, it's unbelievable. I mean, who does that?"
"The amazing thing is that I'm not sore—anywhere," said Porter, still sweating 40 minutes after showering on Sunday. The 6' 2" 248-pounder, decked out in a Cavaliers jersey bearing the name of LeBron James,-said he felt like a kid on Christmas morning. "I guess the adrenaline carried me through, but I feel great"
Porter was amazed by one other thing from Sunday's game. Early in the second quarter, as he rushed around the left side of the offensive line toward Kitna, he was cut-blocked by running back Corey Dillon. As the onrushing Porter tried to twist away, the 225-pound Dillon drove his shoulder into Porter's thigh. Yes, the right one. "I turned around and said to one of the guys, 'Man, Corey Dillon just cut me good, right on the spot where the bullet came out,' " Porter recalled, smiling.
Porter paused when Dillon hit him, thinking it may have done damage. But he was quickly relieved. "It felt perfect," he said.