Ejected Darius says he will appeal any fine

Updated: December 20, 2004, 2:12 PM ET
Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers wide receiver Robert Ferguson temporarily lost feeling in his legs Sunday night after a vicious clothesline hit by Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius.

Ferguson regained feeling on the way to a hospital after being taken from Lambeau Field in an ambulance.

Ferguson was diagnosed with a sprained neck, and team trainer Pepper Burruss said the receiver had movement and sensation in his arms and legs Sunday night. Ferguson was admitted to Bellin Hospital for observation overnight.

In a scene right out of the leather helmet days of the NFL more than a half-century ago, Darius swept in after Ferguson's leaping 31-yard grab of Brett Favre's pass at midfield. Darius hit the defenseless Ferguson across the neck, stunning the crowd and infuriating the Packers with 4:41 left in their 28-25 loss to the Jaguars. Darius was ejected.

Ferguson, according to teammates, was knocked unconscious. He gave a thumbs-up as he left the field on a stretcher, but didn't regain feeling in his legs until he'd left for a hospital for X-rays and further evaluation, coach Mike Sherman said.

"I thought it was a cheap shot," Sherman said.

Referee Ed Hochuli ejected Darius and tagged on 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"It's part of the game," Darius said. "Brett threw the ball and Ferguson was wide open. I was just running over trying to make a play, trying to separate him from the ball. I never intentionally try to hurt someone. I love to play the game and I play it 100 mph. Unfortunately, he got hurt. I pray for him. Everybody that saw it from our standpoint said it looked clean."

Packers tight end Bubba Franks said ejecting Darius was a good call because "I'm pretty sure it would have gotten out of hand if he'd have stayed in the game."

When Favre saw Ferguson wasn't getting up, he started yelling to the officials that it was a cheap shot.

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said he was looking at the pass rush and didn't see the hit, so he declined comment.

But Packers receiver Antonio Chatman said it was clearly a dirty hit "because he got hit on the chin when he couldn't protect himself. I was just praying he was all right. We (receivers) don't go out to hurt nobody, or we'd be cutting them (defensive backs) every time. We block 'em like a man."

Darius said he's seen players stay in the game for hits worse than his.

"It was not intentional, I was just trying to make a play," he said. "I've done that in the past when I know I couldn't get an interception, I swung up, trying to get the ball. That's a technique."

Darius said he would appeal any fine the league hands down.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press