Good News On Thomas' Spinal Cord

Posted: January 26, 2000

Derrick Thomas underwent more than four hours of surgery yesterday to rebuild part of his spine and doctors said his spinal cord was not damaged as badly as feared.

Thomas' spinal cord was severely bruised, neurosurgeon Barth Green said.

Doctors originally thought it might have been severed when Thomas, 33, was thrown from his car Sunday after losing control on an icy highway near Kansas City. Thomas broke his spine and neck and wound up semiconscious with no feeling in his legs.

Though the NFL star remained paralyzed from the chest down at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, doctors expressed hope he'd walk again.

"There have been cases of people with similar injuries who have recovered and there have been people who haven't recovered," Green said. "Anybody who knows Derrick knows that you don't bet against him. "

The Kansas City Chiefs linebacker's operation included decompressing the spinal cord, stabilizing the spinal column with screws, titanium rods and hooks, and implanting bone grafts from Thomas' hip.

Doctors said surgery went as planned and that Thomas, who remained sedated yesterday afternoon, could be transferred to a rehabilitation facility in about two weeks. He already has begun working with therapists.

"Derrick is in very good spirits, he's got his usual sense of humor and he's taking all of this one day at a time," said his mother, Edith Morgan. "One of the first things he said to me was, `Mom, I'm going to have to have a lot of rehab.' But he's real positive and real optimistic about everything."

HIRINGS: Ex-Birds aides

The Minnesota Vikings added three more of Green Bay's fired assistants to their coaching staff, including former Eagles defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas, a day after Sherman Lewis was brought in to run the offense. Former Packers receivers coach Charlie Baggett also joined Green's staff and Thomas brought along Chuck Knox Jr., who will provide computer analysis.

Also, Vikings general manager Tim Connolly resigned effective Feb. 1 after 15 months on the job. He lost a power struggle with Green last spring that limited his duties to overseeing the Vikings' push for a new stadium.

In other personnel news:

* The Carolina Panthers promoted quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave to offensive coordinator. Musgrave was the Eagles' offensive coordinator for the final 10 games of the 1998 season.

* Barring a last-minute snag, Randy Mueller will leave the Seattle Seahawks to become president and general manager of the New Orleans Saints, the (Tacoma) News-Tribune reported. Mueller has been the Seahawks' vice president of football operations since 1995.

BELICHICK: Loses in court

Bill Belichick remained a coach without a team as a federal judge denied his request for an order allowing him to seek another NFL coaching job.

In a sternly worded ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Bissell said Belichick created the very problems he asked the court to solve for him when he resigned as coach of the New York Jets one day after being appointed to succeed Bill Parcells.

COLTS: Muhammad cleared

Indianapolis Colts defensive back Steve Muhammad won't face charges in connection with his wife's death, the Marion County prosecutor said. Nichole Muhammad died Nov. 7 after injuries from a car accident forced her into premature labor. The couple's baby was stillborn and Nichole Muhammad bled to death following the delivery. The Colts rookie was arrested 10 days earlier on three misdemeanor domestic battery charges.

BUCCANEERS: Let Dilfer go

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers declined to exercise a $4.6 million option on Trent Dilfer's contract, allowing the 27-year-old quarterback to become an unrestricted free agent. Dilfer started 76 games over six seasons with the Bucs.

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