Byner delivers in game while wife labors at hospital

November 04, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, VA — ASHBURN, Va. -- When running back Earnest Byner walked into the Washington Redskins' pre-game meal in Buffalo on Monday afternoon, he played a joke on assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell.

"I said, 'Hey, Bobby, I need a [airline] ticket, man. My wife's in labor.' His face dropped way down," Byner said, before he started laughing.

"I knew I wasn't going anywhere," Byner said yesterday.

HTC Byner's wife, Tina, had gone into labor earlier Monday with their fourth child, but they decided he should stay in Buffalo to play against the Bills.

"She gave me the confidence really to just stay," Byner said.

"She was strong enough to say, 'Hey, I'll be all right. The team needs you. They might end up needing you tonight.'

"I said, 'hey, you need me, too,' [but she replied] 'I'll be all right."

Byner's decision came just two weeks after offensive lineman David Williams of the Houston Oilers decided to stay with his wife after their baby was born Saturday, Oct. 16, about 17 hours before the Oilers played the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Mass.

Williams' decision became a national story when the Oilers' offensive line coach, Bob Young, criticized him and the Oilers docked him a game check worth more than $100,000 -- about twice as much as Byner earns a game.

Fred Stokes, a former Redskin who plays for the Los Angeles Rams, missed a game last Sunday to be with his wife when she gave birth, but the team paid him anyway.

Byner said he and his wife didn't discuss Williams and said he didn't know what he would have done in his situation or if it made any difference because it was the Williams' first child.

"I don't know," Byner said. "I can't put myself in that. I haven't even considered it."

Byner's wife was taken to the hospital by Monica Mitchell (Brian's wife) and Michelle Sanders (Ricky's wife), who stayed with her during the birth.

"There was a lot of teamwork," Byner said.

"It was real nice. Tina's really an exceptional lady. A lot of people on the team love her. They came through when she needed it."

Byner's fourth daughter, Kyara, was born about 11:02 p.m., just 11minutes before the end of the third period of the Redskins' 24-10 loss.

Byner ran 20 yards with his only pass reception on a third-and-20 play four plays before the end of the third period, so it virtually coincided with the birth of his child.

He also ran four times for 16 yards.

Byner's wife was able to watch the start of the game on television while she was in labor.

"She was able to go through all that and still watch the game, so they could tell when she was getting excited because her blood pressure was rising," Byner said.

A few of Byner's teammates gathered before the game to pray for Byner and his wife.

"We asked God to come in and give her peace and also give me peace to go out and do what I had to do," he said.

"I was able to go ahead and play and have confidence."

Taking the team's charter flight back immediately after the game, Byner was at the hospital holding his baby at 4 a.m. Tuesday -- five hours after her birth.

"She looks almost exactly like the other three girls we have. She has a full head of hair. She's beautiful," he said.

A 10-year veteran at 31, Byner virtually took it for granted that he was going to play.

"We can't call in and say we're sick on game day," he said. "We've got to be there. That's just the way it is, just the way it has been.

"We play the game in adverse conditions, out there in the rain and snow and all that. Babies are a part of life, but football seems to be the thing that makes us go, makes us do what we've got to do. We learn to adjust, and that's just part of the game."

He said the idea of missing a game check would give him more pause now that he's a million-dollar player.

"Back in the [old] days, I could see foregoing a game check, but nowadays the money is a little bit more than what we used to make," Byner said.

"Also, when you've got a wife like I do and I'm blessed with, it made it easy."

He then said, jokingly, about his wife: "Knowing her, she wants that money so she can go out and buy some more clothes."

Byner said he helps with the baby and gave her a bottle at 5 a.m. yesterday.

He said he wanted to get used to giving the baby a bottle because his wife handled the chore when their 2-year-old, Brandi, was a baby. The result was that his wife was the only one in the family who could get her to go to sleep.

"We want to set it up so if Tina has to go somewhere, I don't have a big fight on my hands when she goes to sleep," Byner said.

NOTES: To make room for OL Paul Sevier on the roster, the Redskins waived CB Robert Williams, who was signed on Oct. 20 and was inactive Monday night. . . . The Redskins have 11 players on their injury report including OL Joe Jacoby (back) and Ed Simmons (knee), both of whom will miss the Indianapolis game, and safety Danny Copeland (neck), who probably will miss the game.

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