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  Head-Butt Turns Into Real Pain in the Neck

By Leonard Shapiro and Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 24, 1997; Page D1

The Washington Redskins finally made a change at quarterback last night at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, with Jeff Hostetler replacing Gus Frerotte at the start of the third quarter, the result of one of the more bizarre plays in the team's history.

Frerotte did not start the second half of the Redskins' overtime tie against the New York Giants after head-butting a padded wall in the end zone in celebration after scoring on a one-yard run late in the first half.

He ended up with a sprained neck and a trip to the hospital.

On a third-and-goal play from the 1, he had rolled out of the pocket looking for a receiver. When he saw a clear path in front of him, Frerotte dashed toward the goal line and just managed to get into the right front pylon of the south end zone ahead of two Giants defenders.

Frerotte kept running toward the corner of the stadium. First he spiked the football against the wall, then he stopped momentarily and continued celebrating his team's first score by butting the top of his helmeted head into a padded wall. He clearly recoiled after the impact.

As Frerotte trotted back toward the bench area, he winced as he tried to get his helmet off. Several trainers and a team doctor also saw his discomfort, and worked on him as he sat on the Redskins bench during the Giants' next possession.

New York was not able to get a first down, and at one point during its series, Frerotte got off the bench and went to the sidelines and stood next to Redskins Coach Norv Turner, who apparently had no idea how the quarterback had been injured.

Turner could be seen asking Frerotte, "What happened?" It could not immediately be determined what his response was, but Frerotte was the quarterback when the Redskins took the field on their next possession with 1 minute 31 seconds left in the first half.

He was able to complete two of the four passes he attempted in that series before the Redskins were forced to punt. They got the ball one more time with 19 seconds left in the half, and Frerotte handed off to Brian Mitchell on the last play before intermission.

At halftime, Frerotte underwent X-rays in a facility underneath the stadium. A team spokesman said the X-rays were negative. As a precaution, Frerotte was taken to Prince Georges County Hospital by ambulance, accompanied by an unidentified team doctor, during the third quarter.

He was given a CAT scan, the results of which were negative. Frerotte left the hospital midway through the fourth quarter wearing a neck brace. "I feel all right," he said, but declined further comment before getting into a waiting limousine that took him back to the stadium, accompanied by his wife, Ann, and 2-year-old daughter, Abigail.

He was still dressed in his football pants and cleats. As he walked through a waiting area at the emergency room, a television was on showing the Redskins-Giants game and he asked the score. At the time, the teams were tied, 7-7.

Frerotte, 26, and in his fourth season with the Redskins, had started every game this season after beating out Heath Shuler, since traded to New Orleans, for the job last season. He had only missed four plays all season, two each in the team's first two games.

There had been some concern about his status for the game against the Giants after he was held out of practice on Friday because he felt a twinge in his throwing shoulder. That injury was initially diagnosed as a mild shoulder strain, but Frerotte seemed to have no difficulty throwing in pregame warm-ups.

He finished the first half with nine completions in 19 passing attempts for 104 yards. He was sacked once for a seven-yard loss, and had the one-yard touchdown run.

Hostetler connected on his first three passes, but his fourth pass hit fullback Marc Logan's shoulder pads, and the carom was intercepted by Giants cornerback Phillippi Sparks. Hostetler finished with three interceptions — two in overtime — and one fumble, completing 19 of 41 passes for 213 yards.

There was some irony to his first extended appearance of the season. It came against the team he had started his career with, playing nine years for the Giants and leading them to victory over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. He signed as a free agent in the offseason with the Redskins after playing the past four seasons with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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