Bills can relate to Redskins' emotional situation

There are some events in life and in football that defy explanation.

Sure, we know how Sean Taylor was killed. The safety for the Washington Redskins was shot during an invasion of his home.

Sure, we know how Kevin Everett suffered a spinal-cord injury that initially was thought to be life-threatening and left him temporarily paralyzed. The reserve tight end for the Buffalo Bills was trying to make a tackle on a kickoff return.

But we'll never really know why different forms of tragedy struck these two young professional athletes and products of the University of Miami.

Taylor's family and friends, including many Redskins players, will try to make sense of his death. That is part of the grieving process, part of how people cope. However, like so many of us, they will struggle to arrive at any satisfactory answers, because what happened to Taylor should never happen to anyone.

Everett, who was injured during the Bills' Sept. 9 season opener against Denver, is recuperating in his hometown of Houston. He has made significant progress, regaining limited use of his legs, but still has a long way to go.

His family and friends, including his Bills teammates, have spent the past two and a half months pondering that fateful collision with then-Broncos return man Domenik Hixon. All NFL players understand the risks of the game, yet none is ever prepared for what happened to Everett. No Bills player will forget that chilling scene of Everett face-down on the field, seemingly forever, showing no movement before being carefully placed onto a stretcher and rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery.

In a curious twist of fate, the first game the Redskins will play in the wake of Taylor's murder is against the Bills.

Players from both teams know each other, some having played together in the NFL or college. Some of the coaches have previously worked together as well. They are competitors, but for this game their friendships and acquaintances will carry a higher level of importance. They will look to console each other, to offer words and hugs before the opening kickoff and after the final second ticks off the clock.

To say the Bills can completely identify with what the Redskins are experiencing would be inaccurate. As Bills coach Dick Jauron said, "With Kevin, it was a terrible accident, but it just got better and better and continues that way. This is an awful tragedy. It's not going to get any better. It's a tough one."

Still, through the grief, games will be played. How the Redskins handle these games, especially the one against Buffalo, will be closely monitored. Will they be too distracted to perform at their best? Will Taylor's death serve as a rallying point, with players determined to honor his memory with victory?

"I know their leadership," said Bills offensive guard Derrick Dockery, a former Redskin who called Taylor one of the best teammates he ever had. "I know coach [Joe] Gibbs. I know [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams. They'll have them ready. They'll fly around. They'll play emotional. They'll play some great ball.

"We'll have to be ready for it. It's going to be a very emotional game."

In the days and weeks following Everett's injury -- as his status miraculously improved from an initial diagnosis that he could die and, if he survived, would never walk again -- Bills players ran the gamut of emotions. They never allowed Everett to leave their hearts or minds even if he no longer was in the locker room. They designed hats with Everett's initials and T-shirts, bearing a photo of Bills players clasping hands in unity on the front and Everett's name and No. 85 on the back that went on sale, with proceeds benefiting spinal-cord research. They visited him while he was in a Buffalo hospital. They called him. They sent him videotaped messages.

There's no telling whether what happened to Everett had anything to do with the Bills' going on to a last-second loss to the Broncos or suffering lopsided defeats in their next two games, against Pittsburgh and New England. At 5-6, their season is going pretty much as expected.

Would it have been any better or worse had there been no tragedy? Who knows?

Football and life have a way of going in directions all their own.

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