Monday, September 22, 2003

LB Porter feels he's born again

Appreciates game since being shot

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Photos of Sunday's game
Joey Porter had gotten in bed at 9:30 Saturday night, but sleep was elusive. Three weeks after surviving a gunshot wound, he was back to football, and everything was different.

"I was so excited I couldn't sleep," he said. "This feeling was like what Christmas felt like when I was 11 years old."

The Steelers linebacker finally nodded off at 1 a.m. Sunday, and 12 hours later he was in the starting lineup. He played every down except for some obvious passing situations in Pittsburgh's 17-10 victory over the Bengals, making two tackles, including a sack.

The whole day, Porter said, felt like new life. "Anything you do, if you have the (possibility) of it being taken away forever, then you get a second chance to do it again, you're definitely going to appreciate it that much more," he said. "You never want to cheat the game again. You want to do everything you can do out there. Truly, you never know when the last play is going to happen."

Porter was named the Steelers' co-MVP last season and earned his first Pro Bowl berth. He became the first player in NFL history to record at least eight sacks (he had nine) and four interceptions in the same season, and he led the team with 93 tackles. He had 28.5 sacks the past three seasons.

On Aug. 31, Porter was shot as he left a bar in Denver at closing time. A 9mm bullet passed through the left side of his buttocks and lodged in his right thigh. Police have said Porter was not an intended victim in the shooting, which left one man dead and five people wounded.

The original prognosis said Porter might miss most of the season. Yet he was back in practice quick enough that only his conditioning prevented Steelers coach Bill Cowher from playing him in Week 2.

"When (his doctors) said walk, I tried to jog," Porter said. "When they said jog, I tried to run. I was just trying to get back out there as fast as I can. It paid off."

Cowher praised Porter's play Sunday: "I thought he played really well."

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