Bills game could offer emotional reunion for Giants' Hixon Print
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Thursday, 20 December 2007 12:25
NFL Headline News

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Domenik Hixon remembered it as one of the hardest hits he's ever received on a football field. Then he noticed the player who administered the blow lying on the ground, motionless.
``One of my teammates said, 'He's not getting up,''' Hixon recalled Thursday about his collision with Buffalo's Kevin Everett on Sept. 9 that initially left Everett paralyzed from the neck down. ``I turned around and when they brought the ambulance out, I was hoping it was more precautionary than anything else.''
Everett eventually regained the ability to walk, and the Bills have invited him to attend Sunday's home finale against the New York Giants, the team that picked up Hixon off waivers from Denver in October.
Plans were still incomplete Thursday, but Everett, who has been rehabilitating in Houston, told his teammates last month he hoped to attend the game.
Hixon said he looked forward to speaking to Everett about his recovery in what figures to be an emotional reunion for both men.
``I've been praying about it every day, hoping and wishing for the best,'' Hixon said. ``From what I'm hearing he has a little bit to go, but it's very exciting that he's making progress.''
The injury occurred in the teams' opener when Hixon was tackled by Everett on a kickoff return. The second-year wide receiver from Akron described the rest of the game and the immediate aftermath as a near out-of-body experience.
``It felt real fake,'' he said. ``Even when I went home and saw it on the TV, I still couldn't believe it. After a couple of days, it really hit me that it happened.''
Giants teammate Sinorice Moss played with Everett at the University of Miami and found out about the injury after New York's loss at Dallas.
``I always look on the Internet to see how all the guys I went to college with did that day, and I saw a headline that said, 'Everett suffers spinal injury,''' Moss said. ``I thought to myself, 'How many other Everetts are there in the NFL?' Then the story popped up and I was just in a state of shock.''
Hixon played three more games for the Broncos before being waived, and finished with unspectacular averages of 22.8 yards on 12 kickoff returns and 4.6 yards on seven punt returns.
He said he only fully realized the toll the incident took on him when he watched himself in game films.
``I looked at the way I played after it, and that wasn't me, it's not how I play,'' he said. ``I was trying not to let it affect me, but it did, just the way I ran the ball. I looked tentative, like I was second-guessing every time.''
In an ironic twist of sorts, Hixon has taken on the role of ``gunner'' on the Giants' punt return team, a role not that different from the one Everett filled for the Bills when he was injured.
While Everett's appearance at Sunday's game would provide a huge emotional lift for the Bills, it is the Giants who have the tangible goal of a playoff berth in their sights, while Buffalo lost that opportunity after an 8-0 loss at Cleveland last week.
Two trends appear to favor the Giants: New York has won six of seven road games this season, and a year ago when the Giants needed a win to get into the playoffs in the final week, they won 34-28 at Washington.
If they lose to Buffalo, the Giants could be forced to clinch a spot in the playoffs by defeating New England next Saturday at Giants Stadium, where they have lost three straight. And, of course, the Patriots are 14-0.
``I don't sense any panic in here,'' defensive end Michael Strahan said Thursday. ``Everybody knows what's at hand. But as much as it is about getting into the playoffs, it's about gaining confidence, and you gain confidence from winning.''
 

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