Cleveland Browns receiver Danny Peebles, his fingers still tingling from a helmet-to-helmet collision with Houston's Bubba McDowell on Nov. 17, retired from football yesterday.
Peebles was told by doctors in Houston and Cleveland that he would risk permanent paralysis if he continued playing contact sports. He lost all feeling and movement in his arms and legs for about 10 minutes after he was hit as a third-quarter pass from Bernie Kosar fell incomplete at the Astrodome.
Peebles' neck injury occurred the same day Detroit Lions offensive lineman Mike Utley was left paralyzed from the chest down after fracturing a vertebra in a game against the Los Angeles Rams.
"All my prayers are out to him, because for a brief moment in time, I know what he's going through," said Peebles, a graduate of North Carolina State.
Peebles said his spinal column narrows in some places, a fairly common condition that can be dangerous for a football player. The condition was discovered during examinations after he was hurt.
"Of course, I want to go out there and play," he said. "Right now, other than some tingling in my hands, I feel just as healthy as I felt three or four weeks ago.
"But going through what I went through -- it was the scariest moment I faced in my 25 years. To be paralyzed from the neck down, granted it wasn't for too long, but it's something you can't imagine. It was almost like I was outside of my body looking in, because I could see my hands and I could see my body, but it just didn't feel like it was mine. It had no feeling, no movement."
* STEELERS: Team president Dan Rooney declined to say if Chuck Noll, the Steelers coach since 1969, would return for his 23rd season.
Noll said Monday it "wasn't a big deal" if the Steelers (5-8) asked him to step aside and he hasn't decided if he wants to return.
"That's something we'll talk about after all of this is over," he said.
Later, after being asked if he was still under the impression he would make the decision when he leaves, Noll said:
"I think so . . . but if they want me to move aside, it's never been a big deal one way or another. I've never had a problem with that."
Meanwhile, Terry Long and Tim Worley, the only players suspended this season under the NFL's drug policy, may return to the team before the season ends.
Worley, a running back who hasn't played a down this season, hopes to play in the final two games. He is serving an NFL-imposed six-week suspension for twice violating the league's drug rules but is eligible for reinstatement next week.
"If Tim gets his act straightened out, we're not going to keep him out of there," Noll said.
Noll said the same holds true for Long, who is serving a four-week suspension for flunking a steroids test. Long's suspension also ends next week but he was on the injured reserve list with an arm injury before he was suspended.
Long was starting at left guard before his injury.