It was another rough Sunday for NFL players, with two starting quarterbacks suffering injuries that will keep them sidelined for much or all of the remainder of the season, and four other starters being lost for the season.
The Oakland Raiders' Rich Gannon suffered a broken vertebra in his neck and will be sidelined for at least six weeks, according to Coach Norv Turner. The Chicago Bears' Rex Grossman will miss the rest of the season because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament.
Those quarterbacks join two other starters earlier this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Tommy Maddox is shelved by an elbow injury, and the San Francisco 49ers' Tim Rattay lost his starting job at least temporarily because of a separated shoulder.
Quarterbacks weren't the only players getting hurt this weekend. Buccaneers tailback Charlie Garner will be sidelined for the remainder of the season after tearing his patellar tendon against the Raiders, his former team.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost fullback Jon Ritchie for the rest of the season because of a torn left ACL. He joins defensive end N.D. Kalu, tailback Correll Buckhalter and rookie guard Shawn Andrews on the shelf. Those three keys Eagles players also have suffered season-ending injuries since training camp.
The Cincinnati Bengals lost linebacker Nate Webster for the remainder of the season because of a torn patellar tendon. Cleveland Browns linebacker Ben Taylor tore a pectoral tendon, finishing his season.
In Nashville, Steve McNair, the NFL's reigning co-most valuable player, was to spend a second straight night in the hospital after getting hurt in the fourth quarter of the Titans' loss to Jacksonville.
Although McNair was having difficulty breathing, tests showed no serious injuries, according to Coach Jeff Fisher, and McNair played in a reserve role the week after suffering a similar injury in 2000. If he can't play, he would be replaced by Billy Volek as Tennessee's starter Sunday at San Diego.
In Oakland, Turner didn't try to hide his disappointment over Gannon's injury.
"He will be out an extended period," Turner said. "A six-weeks deal, or maybe longer. It's disappointing. . . . It makes you sick to your stomach when any player puts as much into it as Rich has."
Gannon was knocked from the Raiders' win Sunday night over Tampa Bay on a hit by Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks that wrenched the quarterback's neck and back.
An MRI exam yesterday revealed his injury, and he was scheduled to undergo further tests. Gannon was walking and Turner said during a news conference that he did not believe the quarterback was at any risk for paralysis.
Gannon, the 2002 league MVP, ended last season on the injured reserve list because of a shoulder injury and edged out free agent addition Kerry Collins for the Raiders' starting job entering the season. Collins replaced Gannon and engineered Sunday night's victory.
In Chicago, the Bears will replace Grossman with Jonathan Quinn. Grossman, a first-round draft choice last year, was hurt on a touchdown scramble late in the Bears' loss to Minnesota.
"As soon as I landed, I knew my knee was done,'' Grossman said during a news conference yesterday. "I didn't even find out I scored a touchdown until I was in the locker room getting dressed. If you're going to go out, you might as well go out scoring a touchdown, I guess.''
Amid all the injuries, the league's most durable quarterback, Brett Favre, expects to be back in the Green Bay Packers' lineup despite a sore hamstring and an ailing left shoulder.
The Packers are counting on Favre to start Sunday against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field. He has made 192 consecutive regular season starts, an NFL record for a quarterback. His string dates from Sept. 27, 1992. He is the only athlete in the four major team sports to start every game for the same club since then. The other NFL teams have started 175 quarterbacks during that span.
Favre missed the Packers' final offensive series of their 45-31 loss Sunday at Indianapolis, in which he threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, after being kneed in the left leg. But the Packers said Favre's hamstring is only bruised, and he said late Sunday he would keep playing with a two-year-old injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder that makes even raising his arms for a touchdown celebration painful.
"I've got a bad left shoulder,'' Favre said. "It's as simple as that. If it was my right one, I wouldn't be playing. . . . It kind of wobbles around and pops out from time to time. As long as it pops back in, I'm okay. It's been hurting me about two years. With each day that passes, believe it or not, it gets worse and worse. I thought about having surgery this past offseason, but I decided against it.''