HOUSTON (AP) -Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett returned to his native Texas on Friday to be closer to his family for the next phase of his recovery from a life-threatening spinal cord injury.
Accompanied by his mother, Everett was transferred from Buffalo to Houston's Memorial Hermann-The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, which provides medical rehabilitation for patients of catastrophic trauma such as brain or spinal cord injuries.
Doctors initially feared Everett would never walk again but have since significantly upgraded their prognosis. Now they're confident he could be walking within weeks.
On Friday, Everett left Buffalo, where he'd been in a hospital since he got hurt making a tackle in the season-opener against Denver on Sept. 9. He left in a private plane, then was taken by ambulance to TIRR's 116-bed facility.
Everett, who grew up in nearby Port Arthur, makes his offseason home in Houston. His mother, Patricia Dugas, sported a Bills football jersey with Everett's number and name on it while riding in a town car behind the ambulance.
Dugas appeared to be in good spirits as she sat in the hospital's cafeteria later Friday but declined to talk with reporters.
Dr. Barth Green, chairman of the neurological surgery department at the University of Miami school of medicine, suggested that Everett continue his rehabilitation in Houston, saying it's important for him to have family and friends nearby.
TIRR said in a statement that Everett's family selected the hospital.
``When our staff heard about Kevin's injury in that game, many of them called me and asked how we could help,'' hospital CEO Carl Josehart said in a statement. ``We are looking forward to working with Kevin.''
Green, co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, has been in constant contact with Everett's doctors, who plan to have Everett try to stand on his own in the next few days.
``They're very confident he'll be walking very soon ... in the next days or weeks, not months,'' Green told The Associated Press on Thursday. ``I think the future for him is very bright.''
NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw and NFLPA president Troy Vincent, a former teammate of Everett's in Buffalo, visited him Thursday. Vincent and Everett joked around during their visit, Vincent told the AP on Friday.
``He said, 'You're the last person I wanted to see me here in this position,''' Vincent said.
Everett made the joke because Vincent always kidded Everett about spending so much time being treated in the Bills training room when the two played together.
Vincent, released by the Bills in October, kidded Everett that he needed a haircut and a shave.
He called Everett's recovery ``powerful'' and reminded Bills fans to continue sending the player cards and letters of support now that he's in Houston.
Vincent added the NFLPA has contacted Texans players, asking them to adopt Everett as an unofficial teammate now that he's in Houston.
Vincent said Everett qualifies as a vested veteran by earning his third full NFL season when the Bills placed him on the injured reserve list last week. That means the player is eligible for the union's lifetime compensation package for total and permanent disability.
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AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo and Associated Press photographer David Phillip in Houston contributed to this report.
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