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The Unfortunate 500
Peter King
December 07, 1992
This season's Did Not Play list has comprised a staggering—but typical—number of NFL players who have missed at least one game because of injury
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December 07, 1992

The Unfortunate 500

This season's Did Not Play list has comprised a staggering—but typical—number of NFL players who have missed at least one game because of injury

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All-Banged Up

How the mighty have fallen. Here's an All-Injury team for this season that, were its members healthy at the same time, would rival any Pro Bowl starting lineup. And there's even a coach to take charge—Dick MacPherson of the New England Patriots, who may be out for the season after having had colon surgery on Nov. 13. All these players have missed at least one game because of injury and have been selected for at least one Pro Bowl during their careers.

POS

PLAYER, TEAM

GAMESMISSED

PRO BOWLS

OFFENSE

WR

Mark Clayton, DOLPHINS

3

5

T

Anthony Munoz, BENGALS

6

10

G

Max Montoya, RAIDERS

6

3

C

Jeff Bostic, REDSKINS

8

1

G

Mark Bortz, BEARS

4

2

T

Jim Lachey, REDSKINS

6

3

TE

Ferrell Edmunds, DOLPHINS

6

2

WR

Al Toon, JETS

4

3

QB

Joe Montana, 49ERS

12

7

RB

Kevin Mack, BROWNS

4

2

RB

Johnny Johnson, CARDS

2

1

DEFENSE

DE

Leonard Marshall, GIANTS

2

2

DT

Michael Perry, BROWNS

2

3

DE

Charles Haley, COWBOYS

1

3

OLB

Lawrence Taylor, GIANTS

3

10

ILB

Shane Conlan, BILLS

2

3

ILB

Junior Seau, CHARGERS

1

1

OLB

Duane Bickett, COLTS

1

1

CB

Darrell Green, REDSKINS

8

5

CB

Albert Lewis, CHIEFS

3

4

FS

Steve Atwater, BRONCOS

1

2

SS

David Fulcher, BENGALS

4

3

SPECIALISTS

K

Nick Lowery, CHIEFS

1

2

P

Reggie Roby, DOLPHINS

7

2

RET

Deion Sanders, FALCONS

1

1

It started out like any other play, on a day like any other NFL game day. With a cold breeze blowing into his face at the Meadowlands, Kansas City Chief quarterback Dave Krieg dropped back to pass early in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets. Two young, irrepressible defensive linemen bore down on him, Scott Mersereau from Krieg's left and Dennis Byrd from his right. Krieg took a quick step up into the pocket to avoid being sandwiched, and Byrd ran full-speed into the oncoming Mersereau—266 pounds of force meeting 275 pounds of resistance. The crown of Byrd's green helmet slammed into Mersereau's sternum. Both players fell to the earth.

Mersereau, the wind knocked out of him, struggled to his feet within a few moments. Byrd (photograph at left), having suffered a fracture of the fifth vertebra, didn't move.

"What's the matter?" said Jet defensive end Marvin Washington, as he leaned over Byrd, his best friend.

"I don't have any feeling in my legs," replied Byrd.

While Byrd, 26, lay on the field for seven minutes without moving, Washington and New York safety Erik McMillan started to cry. At one point, as Byrd looked up into the cold and gray New Jersey sky, he asked the doctors around him, "Am I going to be paralyzed?"

As of Monday night Byrd still had total paralysis of his lower extremities and partial paralysis of his upper body. There were signs of sensory preservation in his legs but no voluntary function. He had some movement in his biceps and triceps, but wrist and finger functions were absent. Spinal specialists at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City were planning surgery for midweek to determine the extent of the damage to his spine. The doctors were guardedly optimistic, saying they had seen patients with similar injuries walk again.

Byrd's trauma was the third reminder in four days of the perilous accidents that can occur on a football field. In Detroit on Thanksgiving Day former Lion guard Mike Utley made an emotional return to the Silverdome in a wheelchair a year and nine days after he had sustained a neck injury (he fell while blocking) that left him paralyzed from the chest down. And closer to home for the Jets, New York wide receiver Al Toon last Friday announced his retirement because he couldn't shake the cumulative effects of having suffered nine concussions in eight years (page 26).

All of which reaffirmed for every NFL player the fact that at any time, on any field, disaster can strike. "It could have been me lying there," said Krieg, who was still shaken two hours after Byrd had been injured.

When December rolls around, even the healthy players in the league are hurting. It's a fact of NFL life. But we tend to become so immune to the violence of the game, so jaded by each Sunday's allotment of broken bones, torn muscles and sprained joints, that it takes a crippling blow like the one suffered by Byrd or a brutal run of injuries to star players to bring us back to our senses.

In the past three weeks alltime greats New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor (torn Achilles tendon) and Cincinnati Bengal tackle Anthony Munoz (torn knee ligament) probably had their careers ended by injury. Houston Oiler quarterback Warren Moon (page 28) may be sidelined for as many as six weeks with a broken arm, and the Phoenix Cardinals effectively lost their pass rush when linebackers Ken Harvey and Freddie Joe Nunn tore knee ligaments in the same game.

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