Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Mike Frier probably never will walk again because of a broken neck suffered in a car crash that also injured two teammates.
The question of who was driving the car, meanwhile, was undetermined Friday after agents for the two other players - Chris Warren and Lamar Smith - contradicted police reports that Warren was at the wheel.In a statement issued through the Seahawks Friday, Smith's agent Eugene Parker said Smith was driving. In a separate statement, Rick Schaeffer, Warren's agent and attorney, said Warren was not driving and was not the owner of the car.
Kirkland police did not immediately return a telephone call about the contradiction. They had reported after the Thursday night accident that Warren, a Pro Bowl running back, was driving, had been arrested for investigation of vehicular assault and was released on his own recognizance.
The police investigation was ongoing, but Detective Jim O'Toole said Friday that "there is reason to believe alcohol was involved."
Frier, a 6-foot-5, 299-pounder, "almost certainly will be wheelchair dependent," Dr. Michael Schlitt told a news conference at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, where all three players were taken after the wreck.
Frier, 25, was a passenger in a 1992 Oldsmobile Bravada that ran into a utility pole near the Seahawks' headquarters about 8:40 p.m. Thursday. Police initially had described the car as a Chevy Blazer.
Warren, 27, suffered two fractured ribs, was treated at the hospital and released early Friday.
Smith, 24, a rookie running back, was hospitalized with a chip fracture in his spine and an ankle sprain.
"There is a tremendous shock in the locker room right now," Seahawks coach Tom Flores said.
Frier had no use of his legs or hands and only minimal muscle function in his upper arms, Schlitt said.
The third-year pro from Appalachian State suffered a broken and dislocated neck between the fifth and sixth vertebrae and his spinal cord was "severely injured," Schlitt said.
"The likelihood that he will play football again is zero," Schlitt said. "The likelihood of walking is very poor.
"He'll regain a little more use in the arms. That's almost guaranteeable. But it's doubtful that he'll have completely normal function of the hands."
Frier was Seattle's seventh-round draft choice in 1992 and was picked up on waivers by Cincinnati that year. He played in 31 games with the Bengals, before being released Oct. 13.
He played in three games as a reserve with the Seahawks this season.
"He knows about his diagnosis," Schlitt said. "I've discussed it with him. He's depressed as most people will be after such an injury."
Police Sgt. Mark Smith said it appeared the car was going too fast for the rain-slicked road. The crash set the utility pole on fire and the players had to be pulled from the vehicle by passersby and firefighters, he said.
Vehicular assault is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison, although the standard sentencing range under state guidelines is three to nine months in jail, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County prosecutor's office.
The charge alleges a defendant caused serious harm to another person as a result of driving a vehicle in a reckless manner or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.