Bills tight end Kevin Everett arrived at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday morning to watch Buffalo's home season finale, less than four months since sustaining a severe spinal cord injury on the same turf.
Everett addressed teammates about two hours before the game against the Giants. He left the locker room in a wheelchair and then, on his own power, climbed into a covered golf cart before being driven up the tunnel and out of the stadium.
Everett was driven to team owner Ralph Wilson's suite at midfield, and was immediately recognized by fans and concession workers, who began applauding as he got out of the cart. Everett smiled and waved but didn't say anything.
Everett, accompanied by family and friends, parked at one end of the box's front row and watched the pregame festivities from a wheelchair, munching on a candy cane and acknowledging fans with a
A smile creased Everett's face when fan Rick Rosenswie of nearby
Olean walked past and gave him a thumbs-up before taking his seat
overlooking the 20-yard line at the west end of the field.
"Everybody wants to see him and welcome him back. It's absolutely amazing that he's back. Anybody that's ever played knows injuries like that are catastrophic," said Rosenswie, who played offensive line in college at St. Leo's in the 1970s. "We saw him go down. We heard the hit from up here."
Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said Everett, who has spent the past 2½ months rehabbing in Houston, where he makes his offseason home, would not be available for interviews.
Everett's attendance is the latest step in a remarkable recovery after doctors initially feared he'd never walk again. Everett was paralyzed from the neck down after he was hurt tackling Denver's Domenik Hixon in Buffalo's season opener Sept. 9.
Hixon now plays for the Giants and hoped to meet with Everett at some point during the day.
Everett is now walking under his own power, and continues his rehab as an outpatient at Houston's Memorial Hermann/TIRR.
He had indicated to his teammates last month that he hoped to attend the game.
Everett was not expected to walk out on the field because of poor weather. Winds were already gusting at more than 30 mph and there was a persistent drizzle falling two hours before game time. Snow was also in the forecast.
Everett was also reunited with Bills team doctors, including Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, the team's orthopedic surgeon, who immediately attended to the player on the field when he was hurt and operated on him at Buffalo's Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital.
Hospital spokesman Mike Hughes was delighted to learn of Everett's return to Buffalo.
"What a great testament for our nurses and doctors seeing him," Hughes said. "He is a shining example of their great care. And we have a standing offer to Kevin and his family to visit anytime. The staff here would love to see him again."
The Bills (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention following last weekend's 8-0 loss at Cleveland. The Giants (9-5) need a win to clinch a playoff berth.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow at Orchard Park contributed to this
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)