Porter sustains non-career threatening injuries

Updated: September 1, 2003, 12:58 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- By all accounts, Joey Porter was simply minding his own business.

Joey Porter

The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker was standing outside a bar when he was shot just before 2 a.m. Sunday following the Colorado-Colorado State football game.

"He was an innocent bystander," police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. "There was no confrontation or altercation that we know of at this time."

One man was killed and five seriously injured after the shooting outside the All Sports Bar & Grill in Denver. Porter, whose injuries were not life-threatening, had gone to the bar following the football game. The All-Pro linebacker played at Colorado State.

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said Porter was shot in the buttocks.

"Joey's going to be fine; he'll be back," Cowher said. "He's a special guy and he'll be back."

Cowher did not speculate how long Porter would be out but did say the team wouldn't place him on injured reserve, which would sideline the linebacker for the season. Losing Porter for a substantial period would be a major blow to a defense that was the NFL's best in 2001 and ranked seventh overall last season.

Clark Haggans, who played mostly as a rush end in the Steelers' dime defense last season, likely will start Sunday's opener against Baltimore. Haggans also is a former Colorado State player.

Cowher said Porter was distraught over getting hurt with the season about to start. The Steelers otherwise came through the preseason with no serious injuries.

"He feels like he's let the football team down. He was really emotional," Cowher said.

The bar where the shooting occurred is about 1 miles from Coors Field, and in an area high on the city's ranking of high-crime neighborhoods.

The six victims were standing inside the parking lot when the shots were fired from outside a fence enclosing the property. Bar manager James Greer said everyone had left the bar before the shooting.

"Joey had been to the game and he came down here to patronize our business. This is very sad. I hope it doesn't interfere with his playing," Greer said.

He said there had been no fights or arguments before the shooting. One victim, Kendal Johnson, was a bar employee. He was treated and released. The dead man was identified as Christopher Wilford, 28.

Porter, a third-round draft pick in 1998, played in his first Pro Bowl last season. He became the first player since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 to have nine sacks and four interceptions.

Considered one of the league's best all-around linebackers, Porter also had two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles last season. Against Oakland in the second game of 2002, Porter made 10 solo tackles, had three sacks and intercepted two passes, earning him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press