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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

Giants' Strahan Out for Remainder of Season

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2004; 5:10 PM

New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan will miss the remainder of the season because of a torn pectoral muscle.

An MRI exam today confirmed the tear, suffered during Sunday's 28-21 loss to the Chicago Bears, and Strahan is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday.

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The Giants also lost their other starting defensive end, Keith Washington, for the remainder of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Strahan, who turns 33 this month, wasn't having his best season. He had his first sack in five games Sunday and had a modest four sacks halfway through the Giants' season. But he remains a top pass rusher -- he had 18-1/2 sacks last season -- and the Giants defense could ill afford to be without him.

He has been an iron man throughout his 12-year NFL career. He last missed a game in 1995, and he has missed only two games in the past 11 seasons after missing seven games as a rookie in '93 because of a foot injury and ending that season on the injured reserve list because of an ankle injury suffered in the regular season finale. He missed one game because of a knee injury in '94 and one game because of a hamstring injury in '95, and had played in every game since.

But he finished Sunday's game watching from the sideline in street clothes, and he and the Giants were left crossing their fingers and hoping for the best today. Strahan could have resumed practicing this week if no serious damage had been found. A partial tear probably would have had him missing three to four weeks, but a complete tear was found.

Strahan's injury was part of a miserable day for the Giants in which they allowed seven sacks, had five turnovers, committed 14 penalties and squandered a 14-0 lead in losing to a Bears team that had only two wins entering the game. Quarterback Kurt Warner threw two interceptions, matching his total in the Giants' first seven games of the season. The Giants fell to 5-3 and failed to pick up ground in the NFC East on the first-place Philadelphia Eagles, who dropped to 7-1 with their loss in Pittsburgh.

Leftwich To Miss Two Games

Jacksonville Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio said during a news conference today that he expects quarterback Byron Leftwich to miss two games because of his injured left knee. Doctors reiterated after re-examining Leftwich's knee today that they don't believe he'll have to undergo surgery, Del Rio said.

Del Rio said he expects Leftwich to return to the lineup Nov. 28 at Minnesota. It's possible but unlikely that Leftwich will make it back for a Nov. 21 game against Tennessee, according to Del Rio. Backup David Garrard will start in Leftwich's absence, beginning with next Sunday's game against Detroit.

Birmingham orthopedic specialist James Andrews examined Leftwich's ailing knee last Tuesday and told Jaguars officials he did not think that surgery would be necessary. The initial diagnosis was that Leftwich has a sprained lateral collateral ligament that could take four to six weeks to heal, but Leftwich told Jaguars officials he might be able to return to the lineup sooner than that if more extensive damage is not found. Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, with the aid of a bye week, stayed in the lineup without missing any games during the 2002 season after suffering a sprained lateral collateral ligament during a game against the Washington Redskins. The Jaguars are coming off a bye week.

One problem is that Leftwich apparently injured at least one other ligament in the knee. He was hurt during the Jaguars' loss at Houston on Halloween, but reinserted himself into the game after missing only two plays. The team's medical staff examined him last Monday, and agent Tom Condon sent him to see Andrews when the discomfort in Leftwich's knee persisted.

Doctors wanted to re-examine the knee today, after the swelling subsided, to make a more definitive diagnosis. Jaguars officials had left open the possibility last week that season-ending surgery still could be required.

Many scouts and front-office executives like Garrard, a fourth-round draft choice out of East Carolina in 2002, as a prospect, but he's made only one NFL start. He started the final game of the 2002 season at Indianapolis and, in a 20-13 loss, completed 23 of 46 passes for 231 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Garrard underwent surgery in May to have part of his small intestine removed because of Crohn's disease, a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract.

Leftwich, a first-round draft pick last year out of Marshall, has become a full-time starter in his second pro season and has led the Jaguars' rise to first place in the AFC South with a record of 5-3. He has delivered regularly in the clutch while throwing for 1,891 yards, with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions, in eight games this season.

Pennington Out

The Jets will be without quarterback Chad Pennington for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, Coach Herman Edwards said today. Former Dallas starter Quincy Carter, who finished Sunday's loss to Buffalo after Pennington hurt his right (throwing) shoulder, is to start against the Ravens. An MRI exam today reportedly showed that Pennington has a strained rotator cuff that could keep him sidelined for two to four weeks. Over the past 2-1/2 seasons, the Jets are 19-11 when Pennington starts -- including 6-2 this season -- and 2-8 when he doesn't. . . .

Cleveland guard Kelvin Garmon will miss the rest of the season because of torn ligaments in his right knee.

Vikings Moss-Less

The Minnesota Vikings get a taste of life without wide receiver Randy Moss, who misses the first game of his NFL career tonight in Indianapolis because of a partially torn hamstring muscle.

Moss tried the play through the injury for two games, but his lack of effectiveness in those games led him to give in and allow Coach Mike Tice to rest him and attempt to get him fully healthy. Moss finally agreed last week to undergo an MRI exam, which confirmed the partial tear and the diagnosis that he needed a few weeks to heal. Moss also is likely to miss Sunday's game at Green Bay. He didn't miss a game in his first six NFL seasons. . . .

The New England Patriots are at it again. While they were en route to their second Super Bowl title in three years last season, their starters lost 103 man-games to injuries and Coach Bill Belichick was forced to use 42 different players as starters on offense and defense -- the most ever by a division-winning team. Six opening-day starters ended the season on the IR list.

But the Patriots' way is to shrug off injuries and just keep plowing forward, and that's what they did in Sunday's 40-22 triumph at St. Louis. They were without starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole because of injuries, and fill-in starter Asante Samuel hurt his arm on the second play of the game. So the Patriots went with undrafted rookie Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland, who just was promoted from the practice squad, and faced the daunting task of attempting to slow down Rams wideouts Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.

No problem.

Belichick and his equally resourceful defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, had their cornerbacks jam the Rams wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, then hand them over in coverage to the safeties. They had veteran wide receiver Troy Brown fill in at cornerback, but that wasn't simply out of a desperate sideline search for a volunteer: Brown has been practicing at the position since the preseason. Brown had three tackles and broke up a pass, but also was called for a pass-interference penalty. Linebacker Don Davis played safety in some situations, and the Patriots kept the pass rush coming at Rams quarterback Marc Bulger in waves. Bulger was sacked five times, threw a tipped-ball interception and lost a fumble.

The Patriots mixed the running of tailback Corey Dillon and the throwing of quarterback Tom Brady expertly on offense, and linebacker Mike Vrabel caught a touchdown throw from Brady while serving as a would-be extra blocker in the goal-line offense. Kicker Adam Vinatieri had four field goals and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Brown to break open the game in the third quarter on a fake field goal that caught the Rams napping.

Rams Coach Mike Martz tried unsuccessfully to call a timeout before the Patriots snapped the ball on the fake field goal, and fumed after the game that his players should have been more alert. But the Rams' lack of attention to detail could leave Martz's job in question at the end of the season. Their record dropped to 4-4, and they've lost two of their past three games at home after a 15-game regular-season home winning streak. Martz suffered his most lopsided home defeat in five seasons as the Rams' head coach and lost for the five time in five tries after a bye week. . . .

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the New York Jets' loss at Buffalo was that they failed to sack Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The Jets had sacked Bledsoe 36 times in the teams' previous nine meetings.

Deadline day for extensions

Today is the final day for teams to sign players to contract extensions and have the new deals count partially against this season's salary cap. The Patriots have been talking to Vinatieri about a new deal, and Arizona has been trying to lock up wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

So far, the Eagles have been the most active club leading up to the deadline. Late last week, they signed cornerback Lito Sheppard and defensive tackle Sam Rayburn to five-year deals through the 2011 season. Sheppard's extension contains an $8.7 million signing bonus and could be worth as much as $25 million. Rayburn's deal could be worth as much as $10 million, including a $1.3 million signing bonus. Those deals came on the heels of the Eagles signing cornerback Sheldon Brown and wideout Greg Lewis to extensions. The Bears signed left tackle Qasim Mitchell to a three-year extension through the 2008 season and running back Adrian Peterson to a two-year deal through the 2006 season. . . .

Things aren't getting any better in Miami, where the Dolphins fell to 1-8 with Sunday's loss to the Cardinals. Kicker Bill Gramatica -- filling in for Matt Bryant, who was filling in for Olindo Mare -- missed an extra point, and the Dolphins lost wide receiver Marty Booker to a high ankle sprain and quarterback Jay Fiedler to a pinched nerve in his neck. The Dolphins might as well launch their search for Coach Dave Wannstedt's replacement now. It appears that Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and LSU Coach Nick Saban could join former Redskins coach Steve Spurrier on the club's list of coaching candidates. . . .

The 6-0 start by Ben Roethlisberger matches Mike Kruczek (now the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach) of the 1976 Steelers for the best by a rookie quarterback in modern NFL history.

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