ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Kevin Everett can move again and Domenik Hixon can smile again.
For 48 hours, despair enshrouded the Denver Broncos returner who was on the receiving end of Everett's devastating hit that left the Buffalo Bills' backup tight end with a life-threatening spinal cord injury.
Doctors grimly predicted initially that Everett would never walk again.
``It was a tough couple of days just thinking about it,'' Hixon said. ``He ran into you and all of a sudden his life changes. That's tough to deal with.''
Hixon was sitting at home Tuesday night when his father called with the stunning news that Everett was moving his limbs on his own in what doctors were calling a minor miracle.
``It was a big relief,'' Hixon said. ``That just brought a smile to my face. Prayers were answered. The power of prayers, man. Hopefully, he makes a full recovery.''
On Wednesday, Everett was successfully removed from the respirator though doctors say it could be a struggle to keep him breathing on his own. A stroke and blood clots in his legs are other possible complications they are trying to prevent.
He showed more ability to move his legs and a little more in his arms, but has no movement or function at all of his hands. He is getting nourishment from a feeding tube, and his mother is at his side.
``My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family,'' Hixon said.
Everett sustained the injury Sunday after ducking his head while tackling Hixon during the second-half kickoff in Buffalo. He dropped face-first to the ground after his helmet hit Hixon high on the left shoulder.
Hixon didn't realize the seriousness of the injury at first.
``Normal play, to be honest,'' Hixon said. ``Just a real solid hit. He hit me hard, just kind of like the wrong way. My whole left side is still sore today, you know? It was definitely a big hit. I knew it was.''
What Hixon didn't realize was the severity of Everett's injury.
``I knew it was a strong, hard hit. When he was laying there for a while and they brought out the ambulance, I was just hoping it was a precaution,'' Hixon said. ``We had a similar situation with Karl Paymah (in the preseason) and I was just hoping it was precautionary. Once I heard the news and everything, you know, it just hurt my heart.''
In the last nine months, the Broncos have seen this situation unfold four times, with linebacker Al Wilson during a game in December, linebacker Warrick Holdman during training camp, with Paymah during the preseason and with Everett. All were strapped to body boards with their heads immobilized while players all around them circled in prayer.
Wilson's neck injury led to his release and he might never play again. Holdman is on injured reserve and Paymah, hurt in the preseason when he was kneed in the helmet, missed the opener.
``I don't care if you're playing junior high, high school, college, pro, there's a risk that's involved with football and you just cringe when something like that happens to anybody at any level,'' Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
Shanahan said the team was elated Wednesday with word of Everett's progress.
``That was a freak accident. In fact, there's probably 20 hits in that game that were probably more vicious that than hit,'' Shanahan said. ``You heard what the doctors were saying, you didn't think there was much of a chance for him to have a recovery. You just feel so good that it looks like he will.
``I just hope he continues on the same road and he walks out of that hospital. Everybody was very excited in our locker room when we heard the news today.''
None more than Hixon, who has spent the last few days in deep reflection.
``You re-evaluate a lot of things and just simple things in life you take for granted,'' Hixon said.
He'll wait a while to contact Everett, however.
``He needs his rest,'' Hixon said. ``At the right time, I'll talk to him.''

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