The Buffalo Bills’ Kevin Everett sustained a “catastrophic” and life-threatening spinal-cord injury and his chances of regaining a full range of body motion are very small, an orthopedic surgeon said Monday.
“A best-case scenario is full recovery, but not likely,” Dr. Andrew Cappuccino said, one day after performing a four-hour operation on the player. “I believe there will be some permanent neurological paralysis. … A full neurological recovery was bleak, dismal.”
Cappuccino noted the 25-year-old reserve tight end did have touch sensation throughout his body and also showed signs of movement. But he cautioned that Everett’s injury remained life-threatening, saying the player is still susceptible to blood clots, infection and breathing failure.
Everett is currently under forced sedation and breathing through a respirator as doctors wait for the swelling to lessen. Cappuccino said it will take up to three days to determine the severity of the injury and the recovery process.
During the operation, Cappuccino repaired a break between the third and fourth Vertebrae and also alleviated the pressure on the spinal cord. Doctors made a bone graft and inserted a plate and four screws.
Cappuccino said Everett was alert and is aware of the extent of his injuries.
“I was honest with him, and he told me, ‘Do everything you can to help me,”‘ said Cappuccino, who works for the Bills as a consultant, specializing in spinal surgery.
Cappuccino received permission to operate from Everett’s mother, Patricia Dugas, who spoke by phone from her home in Houston.
Everett was hurt in Buffalo’s season opener against Denver on Sunday when he ducked his head while driving in to tackle Broncos’ Domenik Hixon during the second half-opening kickoff. Everett dropped face first to the ground after his helmet hit Hixon high on the left shoulder and side of the helmet.
Replays showed the player twitching for a few seconds as he attempted to get up before falling back to the ground. Everett’s eyes were open but he showed no further signs of movement during the next 15 minutes as the team’s medical staff and emergency personnel placed him on a backboard and, with the player’s head and body immobilized, loaded him into an ambulance at the Broncos 30.
Bills team doctor John Marzo said Everett was alert from the time he was loaded onto the backboard and throughout the drive to the hospital.
“It’s a tough situation to watch because he’s somebody’s son, brother and friend,” punter Brian Moorman said Monday. “It’s all you could think about during the game, after it happened, after the game and this morning. And we just want him to get better, we want him to heal.”
Quarterback J.P. Losman said it was difficult to concentrate during practice.
“It seems like every couple of seconds that go by it’s always popping into your head,” Losman said. “Going through a walk-through, we’re looking for him, wanting to hear his voice.”
The Bills have Tuesday off before returning to practice to prepare to play at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Coach Dick Jauron said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called him Sunday evening, offering the league’s support.
“We honor ourselves by our work, and we honor Kevin by moving forward and working while never forgetting Kevin and never getting him out of our thoughts and prayers,” Jauron said. “We’re going to wait and see what the outcome is here and we’re really hoping and praying for the best.”
Buffalo’s 2005 third-round draft pick out of Miami, Everett missed his rookie season because of a knee injury. He spent most of last year playing special teams. He was hoping to make an impact as a receiver.
His injury recalled the one to Mike Utley, the former Detroit Lions guard who was paralyzed below the chest. He injured his neck in a collision during a 1991 game.
“I’m sorry this young man got hurt,” Utley told the AP. “It wasn’t a cheap shot. It was a great form tackle and that’s it.”
The 41-year-old Utley now lives in Washington state and is promoting a bike tour aimed at raising money in an effort to cure paralysis.
“These are big strong men competing at the highest level. You can do everything to prepare yourself – lift weights and all that,” Utley said. “But is it going to happen again? Yes.”
Everett’s injury was not the only one sustained by the Bills.
Cornerback Jason Webster (broken forearm) and free safety Ko Simpson (broken ankle) had surgery, and Jauron said both could miss the rest of the season. Also, linebacker Coy Wire has a sprained knee and is out indefinitely.