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09-11-2006, 01:14 AM
QB’s injury caps dark day for shell-shocked Chiefs
By ELIZABETH MERRILL
The Kansas City Star

They got down on one knee in their new all-white uniforms, awkwardly shuffled over to the pile near the sideline, and Trent Green still didn’t move. The rain came down, 11 minutes passed, and an era seemed to slowly slip away in the silence. Damon Huard prayed. Tony Gonzalez turned away. He couldn’t watch.

“It’s the worst thing you could possibly see,” Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson said.

Kansas City already looked shell-shocked by halftime of Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Bengals on the opening day of the Herm Edwards era. But when Green lay motionless on a stretcher late in the third quarter, that’s when things really got ugly.

It has been said that the Chiefs could change coaches, lose offensive linemen, replace Pro Bowl running backs. But if something happened to their quarterback … well, that’s something nobody wanted to talk about. Green started his 81st straight game Sunday. He’s considered the cornerstone of what was one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, and his backup is a guy who came into the day attempting one pass in five years.

Minutes before he took off scrambling for a first down, CBS showed footage of the nasty hit Green took in 1999, when he tore his ACL as Rams quarterback in a preseason game. Then Green ran to the right end for 5 yards, slid past the first-down marker, and Robert Geathers hit him with his shoulder. Green’s head violently snapped against the ground.

The Chiefs called the injury “severe head trauma,” and Green was eventually alert and awake and remembered every play except for the last hit. He was expected to spend the night in the hospital, but his return to the field is unknown.

“It’s like one of those things when people see a disaster,” Gonzalez said. .

“(But) we’re not going to hang our heads and say the season’s over. The season’s not over by any means. I give credit to the Bengals, but I know we can play better than we did today.”

The Chiefs’ offense struggled mightily even before Green went down. Their one impressive drive of the first half ended on third and 5 at the Cincinnati 11, when miscommunication put the ball in Larry Johnson’s hands. Johnson was stuffed for no gain, and the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal, their only score until the game was well in hand in the fourth quarter.

Name an offensive starter, and chances are he struggled Sunday. Green was sacked three times; his replacement, Huard, hit the ground four times. And then there was Dante Hall’s muffed punt and Samie Parker’s offensive pass-interference penalties. Johnson had five catches for 80 yards but did not run for 100 yards for the first time in 10 games.

In the days leading up to Sunday’s game, Edwards said he never holds on to one win or loss for too long. But this day, for some, might be hard to forget — the frightening injury, the mistakes, the vulnerability by an offense that has been so dominant.

“It can all be corrected,” Edwards said. “We’ve got 15 games left, and it’s a long season.”

It looked especially long from Huard’s helmet view. He is a friend of Green’s and had to compose himself before he ran onto the field for his first meaningful snaps since 2000. Huard misfired on his first pass, then fumbled before Ronnie Cruz recovered.

Huard most likely will start next weekend at Denver, and he looked somewhat uncomfortable when the cameras swarmed around his locker after the game.

But Edwards is very familiar with trying to make do after the loss of a quarterback. Four of his signal-callers went down in New York last year, including starter Chad Pennington.

“(Trent) has been such a resilient guy for us,” Peterson said. “Five consecutive years and never being knocked out of a game … I don’t know. Percentages sometimes catch up to you.”

Time, history and change might have caught up to the Chiefs on Sunday. As the offensive players quietly filtered out of the locker room, the linebackers and defensive ends held court.

On a gloomy day at Arrowhead, the defense may have been the only bright spot. And that was shocking enough.

“You get angry, you get mad, because that’s your quarterback,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “But the game is going to go on. It’s not going to stop.”