Saivion Smith rejoins Lions, braces for neck surgery

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Saivion Smith said he'll never forget his first start for the Detroit Lions.

Inside New England's Gillette Stadium on Oct. 9, the third-year cornerback says he was briefly immobile before being carted off the field in an ambulance during the opening quarter of a game against the Patriots.

"I was stuck for like 20 seconds," Smith said. "I couldn't even talk."

Smith described it as "the scariest thing of my life." He suffered a neck injury that will require fusion surgery on Nov. 8. He will miss the remainder of the season.

Outside of being able to blink, he said he couldn't talk or move any part of his body initially.

"I don't remember what I was trying to say, I was just trying to say something," Smith recalled. "I don't know what I was trying to say. I don't know. I can't remember. I could see everything. I could hear everything. I saw my teammates on the sideline. I saw everybody, but I just couldn't move, so I was trying to extend my arms, move my legs, I couldn't do nothing."

Smith was evaluated at a local hospital, regained feeling in his extremities and was able to fly back with the team to Detroit. At the time of the injury, Smith says he wondered if he ever would play football, walk or even talk again. At first, Smith said he thought he suffered a concussion after experiencing a bad headache, so he visited a concussion expert. However, once they determined he didn't have a concussion, he visited a spine specialist, who discovered a bulging disk in his neck.

"I'm ready to get back. As soon as I get this surgery and I heal up, I'm ready to get back," Smith said. "It's just part of football. That could've happened any play, anytime to anybody, you know what I'm saying? That could've happened to the average Joe that works at McDonald's if he slipped and fell. I feel like it's a part of the game and a part of life."

On Wednesday, Smith returned to the Lions' practice facility, where his teammates were excited to see him walking and joking around after witnessing what happened in New England.

"It kind of puts things in perspective of how fragile of a time in this industry is as far as any moment you could be cutting up with a guy and all of a sudden, he's down. Don't take anything for granted," Lions teammate Jeff Okudah told ESPN. "At a moment's notice, it could be flipped around so having him back around here smiling, it's been big for our spirits, but it also puts a lot of things in perspective for a lot of guys who are not necessarily taking it for granted but reminding you not to."

If Smith had it his way, he said he wouldn't want to miss any time and would like to "play right now to tell you the truth."

"I don't even want to go through and sit out for the rest of the season," Smith said.

He added that he expects to miss five months while recovering but plans to be back by OTAs.

"Yeah, I'm nervous. It's neck surgery," Smith said, laughing. "I ain't never had no real hardcore surgery. I had a scope done on my ankle but that was nothing serious. I feel like I'm gonna be all right. I got God with me."