Maddox's Prognosis Good

<p>NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The play seemed innocent enough. But when Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox didn't get up, in fact, didn't move, after being hit in the back by Tennessee Titans' linebacker Keith Bulluck, it was immediately evident something was wrong, terribly wrong.</p>

In a matter of a few seconds, football didn't seem all that important anymore.

In the ensuing minutes, as Maddox lay motionless on the field with doctors working to secure is neck and head, you could not help but feel for the man who had become the comeback story of the year in the NFL. He had worked so hard to make his way back to the NFL. But football is a violent sport. In fact, violence is pretty much the thing on which the sport is based.

"We're the modern-day gladiators," said Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans. "It's a violent sport. You know when you step on the field, you could be hurt at any time. It's a chance we all take."

Sometimes, lost in the battles for wins, losses and glory, it's easy to forget about that. But when you see players leaving the field in an ambulance, it serves as a serious jolt of reality.

Maddox suffered a concussion and spinal cord contusion when Bulluck drove his head into the turf. He had no feeling in his arms and legs, something he did not regain until later on in the evening at the Trauma Unit at Baptist Hospital here in Nashville.

"Tommy, he's been blessed," said Steelers wide receiver Terance Mathis. "I don't think God brought him this far to leave him right now, so he's going to be just fine."

Maddox's riches to rags and back to riches story is the stuff legends are made of.

For it to have ended like that, on a muddy turf in Nashville would have been a crime. But the main thing is not whether Maddox will ever again play football again. The Steelers will keep on playing this season and the next and the ones after that, with or without Maddox. The show must always go on.

That much we know for sure.

The main concern now is whether Maddox be able to play with his nine-year-old daughter Kacy, or three-year-old son Colby.

"Your heart goes out to his wife and kids," said Steelers punter Josh Miller. "I can't imagine how they must have felt watching that whole thing on TV. For this to happen to a guy like Tommy, who's a leader and pours his heart into this game is tough."

Fortunately, it looks as if Maddox will be OK. He has the feeling back in his arms and legs and was alert and speaking with his family on the telephone from Nashville. It appears this is not the final chapter in Maddox's storybook comeback to the NFL.

And in the meantime, the Steelers will move forward with Kordell Stewart back at the helm of their offense, which is not a bad fallback plan.

"That's why you have backups in this game," said Steelers safety Lee Flowers. "Injuries happen, it's part of the game."

It's a harsh reality, but it is a fact.

-- Dale Lolley

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