St. Louis — Many St. Louis Rams players woke to the news that Stedman Bailey had been shot in the head.
They were relieved to learn the wide receiver is expected to recover.
“I think immediately your thoughts go to what’s really important,” defensive end Chris Long said after practice Wednesday. “He’s a great dude, I’ll look forward to the day I see him playing again.”
Bailey was in intensive care and in stable condition at a Miami area hospital after undergoing a surgical procedure that Rams coach Jeff Fisher said lasted 4-6 hours.
Fisher said he didn’t anticipate Bailey, who is eligible to return from a suspension in two weeks, would play again this season.
“Whether you’re a coach or you’re a father or you’re a family member, anytime something like that happens it’s very, very difficult,” Fisher said after practice.
It made for a sobering atmosphere at Rams Park, although loud music was played during practice as usual to prepare the team to play at Cincinnati this week.
Fisher did not have specifics on the amount of times the 25-year-old Bailey was shot or the circumstances of the shooting, or why the operation took so long. Fisher mentioned “two or three shots and an injury to the hip.”
“We don’t know exactly where the bullets are. Are there two or is there one? We don’t know any of those things,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said.
Fisher twice updated players Wednesday about Bailey, who had gotten permission to work out in Florida at least part of the time since being suspended in early November for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Defensive end William Hayes called Fisher to confirm the news late Tuesday after seeing it on a text message. He said he got about 2-3 hours’ sleep worrying about Bailey.
“Part of it was not knowing, but the other part is that you know something happened,” Hayes said. “I know for sure that nothing like that should have happened to him.”
The Rams had been optimistic about Bailey’s chances after a member of the team’s medical staff spoke with Bailey on Tuesday night.
“That gave us hope that he would pull through this, and it was not life-threatening,” Fisher said.
Bailey was shot as he and four others were sitting in a car outside a home in the Miami area, police said. Another man, Antwan Reeves, was with Bailey and was also shot in the incident Tuesday night. Three others in the car, including two minors, were not wounded.
“The victims drove themselves to an area hospital for evaluation and treatment,” Miami Gardens police said in a statement.
Reeves was out of surgery and was also in critical but stable condition, a police spokeswoman said. Police said they were looking for suspects, who had driven up in another car before shooting.
Bailey went to high school in the Miami area. He is in his third season with the Rams, but has been suspended twice by the NFL.
Bailey, who turned 25 on Nov. 11, was a third-round pick in the 2013 draft out of West Virginia, where he was part of a productive wide receiving tandem with Tavon Austin, whom the Rams selected with the eighth overall pick that year.
Bailey served a two-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs at the start of last season.
According to police, Bailey, Reeves and the three others were sitting in a car at about 8:45 p.m. ET Tuesday at a local residence. Another vehicle arrived and “opened fire,” police said. Reeves was taken into surgery shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Players from around the league reached out on social media shortly after reports emerged.
Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell used Twitter to send his best wishes: “prayers to my brother Stedman Bailey.”
Rams punter Johnny Hekker tweeted, “Praying for guardian angels over Sted. We’re with you brother.”
Bailey has started three games each of the past two seasons, and this season has 12 receptions for 182 yards with one touchdown. He was fined for pulling a stunt after the lone score after using the ball as a pillow and lying down in the end zone.
Last season, he had 30 receptions with a 14.5-yard average and one touchdown. He was among five Rams receivers who did the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture during player introductions before a game last December as a show of solidarity for protesters in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.
The Rams signed free-agent wide receiver Wes Welker after Bailey’s second suspension. Bailey is eligible to return to the roster on Dec. 7, the day after the Rams play at Arizona.
Gifford had CTE
The family of Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford says signs of the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy were found in his brain after his death.
In a statement released through NBC News on Wednesday, the family said he had “experienced firsthand” symptoms associated with CTE but did not offer specifics. Gifford died of natural causes at his Connecticut home in August at age 84.
His widow, Kathie Lee Gifford, is a host for NBC’s “Today.”
The statement said that the family “made the difficult decision to have his brain studied in hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury.”
“Our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed,” the Giffords added.
CTE, which can be diagnosed only after death, has been found in the brains of dozens of former players. Linked to repeated brain trauma, it is associated with symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
The statement said the family found “comfort in knowing that by disclosing his condition we might contribute positively to the ongoing conversation that needs to be had; that he might be an inspiration for others suffering with this disease that needs to be addressed in the present; and that we might be a small part of the solution to an urgent problem concerning anyone involved with football, at any level.”
A running back, defensive back, wide receiver and special teams player, Gifford was the NFL MVP in 1956 when his New York Giants won the league championship. A crushing hit by Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik in November 1960 flattened Gifford and likely shortened his football career. Bednarik was pictured standing over the unconscious Gifford, pumping his fist in celebration. Gifford was in the hospital for 10 days and sidelined until 1962.
“We have great respect and sympathy for the Gifford family,” the Giants said in a statement. “We all miss Frank dearly. We support the family’s decision to contribute to the discussion and research of an issue we take very seriously.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Gifford “a beloved member of the NFL family.”
“He exemplified everything good about our game throughout his years of extraordinary accomplishments, both on and off the field,” Goodell said in a statement Wednesday night. “We appreciate the Gifford family’s desire to help the medical community understand more about CTE, and we are grateful for their support of the league’s efforts to improve safety in our game. At the NFL, we are supporting grants to NIH and Boston University as well as other independent efforts to research the effects of repetitive head trauma.
“But we are not waiting until science provides all of the answers. We are working now to improve the safety of our game. The NFL has made numerous rules changes to the game, all to enhance player health and safety at all levels of football. These include 39 rule changes and better training and practice protocols that are yielding measurable results.
“This work will continue as the health and safety of our players remains our highest priority. We have more work to do — work that honors great men like Frank Gifford.”
Gifford later had a successful second career in broadcasting, most notably on ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” where he famously served as a buffer between fellow announcers Don Meredith and Howard Cosell.
Seahawks Lynch out
If the Seattle Seahawks are going to make a late charge toward a fourth straight playoff spot, they’ll do it without Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch underwent surgery to repair an injury related to a sports hernia and will be sidelined for at least three or four weeks. But that is the best-case scenario on the recovery and there is a chance that Lynch will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Seattle is hopeful that Lynch will return at some point and will keep the bruising running back on the active roster. But Seattle’s playoff hopes will now be carried by rookie Thomas Rawls.