New York Giants officials write off to coincidence the fact that tackle Karl Nelson is the fourth member of the team since 1980 to contract cancer. And Robert Mulcahy, executive director of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, says any hint the cancer cases might be connected to the environment around the Giants Stadium is "outrageous speculation."

But the players are wondering. Many believe it is a distinct hazard to practice and play in the New Jersey Meadowlands, built over a swamp that had been used as a landfill and in an area of chemical plants and oil refineries.

Linebacker Harry Carson, one of two Giants with the team since it moved to the Meadowlands in 1976, told the New York Daily News he "wanted a trade and considered retiring" because of the problem. "I didn't like the things that were happening, starting with Dan Lloyd. When I signed my last contract, I considered it to be hazard pay for where we played."

Some players complained to the Daily News of what they believed to be polluted water coming from showers. "Sometimes it's yellow, sometimes it's green, and it stinks," one player was quoted as saying.

Three other Giants have contracted cancer since 1980 -- linebacker Lloyd and running backs Doug Kotar and John Tuggle. Lloyd, who had lymphoma, recovered and later played briefly with the Giants and in the USFL, but Kotar died in 1983 of a brain tumor and Tuggle perished last year with lung cancer.

The team was informed Saturday night that Nelson, 27, has Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymph cancer. Team physician Russell Warren said Nelson's chances of recovery are good.