MIAMI -- Rookie linebacker Bryan Cox, Miami's top defensive draft pick, suffered a serious spinal injury last night on the final play of the Dolphins' 6-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the NFL preseason opener for both teams.
"A severe contusion of the nerve root of the cervical spine" is what team doctors called the injury in a statement issued through the club.
Cox, an outside linebacker from Western Illinois and the team's fifth-round draftee, was transported to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale for further examinations to help determine the severity of injury or whether there was paralysis.
Cox crumpled to the turf on the last play, with 25 seconds remaining, and the injury was so ominous that play was suspended with that time left and the Bears with the ball. As the field emptied, several of Cox's teammates stood and stared, transfixed, as paramedics who'd rushed out with a stretcher moved urgently, but carefully, to position Cox on the plank.
Cox had just finished a spectacular rookie debut, with a team-leading six solo tackles.
"Nobody knows how it happened yet, but he must have been in on the play -- seemed like he was in on every other one," said defensive coordinator Tom Olivadotti. "He had an outstanding, outstanding game. God, I hope everything with him is all right."
Cox blinked through his face mask as they wheeled him off the field into a stadium X-ray room. Within 20 minutes he was en route to Holy Cross.
"It was scary," defensive end T.J. Turner said, "but later I saw him wiggling his fingers a little bit, which was a great sign. Right?"