Free agent running back Dorsey Levens will return to the Philadelphia Eagles and replace the injured Correll Buckhalter, Levens's agent said yesterday.

"It's an opportunity to play, and it's a situation where he knows the offense and has an opportunity to win a Super Bowl," Hadley Engelhard said.

Engelhard said Levens planned to leave for Philadelphia last night to sign a contract.

The Eagles declined to comment.

Buckhalter tore a tendon in his right knee in Friday's preseason win over Baltimore and will undergo season-ending surgery. Levens's return would mark the second time he has been brought in to back up Buckhalter.

Levens likely will back up third-year back Brian Westbrook, who, along with Buckhalter, shared time with Duce Staley last season.

* PANTHERS: Defensive end Kavika Pittman will miss the entire season after tearing a ligament in his left knee, the same injury that sidelined him most of last year.

He will have surgery today and begin rehabilitation in a few weeks, the team said yesterday. An MRI exam showed he tore his anterior cruciate ligament again on the first play of practice Saturday.

"I went out there and told myself, 'I'm about to give [tackle] Melvin Tuten the business,' " Pittman said. "Instead, the knee gave me the business. But it's all right. I'm in good spirits and I'll be back."

Pittman first tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the second game of the 2003 season when he took a chop block from Tampa Bay wide receiver Keenan McCardell.

"You feel bad for the guy," Coach John Fox said. "He has tried and has worked very hard this offseason to get back."

Pittman spent all of last season rehabbing and got back on the field in minicamp. However, he hyperextended the knee and partially tore the ligament during the June camp.

* JAGUARS: Jacksonville released defensive end Tony Brackens because the team's all-time sack leader struggled this preseason with the latest in a string of leg injuries.

Brackens, an eight-year veteran and former second-round pick, had been on the sidelines since Aug. 10 with a strained muscle behind his right knee.

"It was a business decision I understood," Brackens said during a conference call. "It would be hard for me to come in and compete for a spot if I'm not going" to practice.

Brackens, 29, had been released once this year for salary cap reasons but was signed again to a one-year contract in June. He is coming back from right knee surgery, a year after having complicated surgery on the other knee.

He led the team last year with six sacks and brought his career total to 55.

* CHIEFS: Four days past his 44th birthday, Morten Andersen will face a critical moment in his drive to prolong a Hall of Fame career.

Andersen will do most of the place kicking during Kansas City's preseason game against St. Louis tonight. He's worked hard to get in shape for a 23rd consecutive season.

But lurking on the sideline, hoping to take his job, will be 26-year-old Lawrence Tynes, a Canadian Football League star who had an impressive training camp.

The competition has been tight. But Tynes, who failed to unseat Andersen in 2001 and '02, has seemed to hold an edge.

* PATRIOTS: Struggling New England looked nothing like the team that won the Super Bowl less than seven months ago.

Their performance in Saturday night's 31-3 preseason loss at Cincinnati was so bad that Coach Bill Belichick wants to see a return to basics for a team that won its final 15 games last season.

"We've got to show the ability to do the fundamental things right consistently before anything else can happen," Belichick said yesterday. "We didn't do a very good job with those [Saturday] night at all."

The Bengals scored on their first three possessions and led 21-0 before New England had a first down. They led 28-3 at halftime behind strong performances from quarterback Carson Palmer and running back Rudi Johnson.

And they seemed much stronger than the Cincinnati team that went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs.