Strippers flew in for the party. Football players pulled up in limos. As a pair of chartered boats eased onto Lake Minnetonka, booze started flowing and, according to crew members, a sex party began.

Investigators now believe that the strippers from Atlanta, Florida and elsewhere who joined the party apparently work for a high-class escort or call girl service that caters to professional athletes, two law-enforcement officials said yesterday.

The party was a far cry from the typical gathering handled by Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises, a mom-and-pop outfit in Mound, Minn., that one cop involved in the case called a "Perkins on the lake."

When a group of Minnesota Vikings players chose to party amid bartenders and hostesses accustomed to working family functions and company outings, the result was an uproar.

* GIANTS: Cornerback William Peterson is expected to miss a minimum of four to six weeks with a lower back injury, potentially a more positive diagnosis than many around the team expected.

The fifth-year cornerback missed the Giants' 44-24 win over St. Louis on Oct. 2 after experiencing pain in his lower back and has not practiced since. The Giants had a bye last week.

* RAMS: Safety Michael Hawthorne, who lost his starting job in last week's loss to the Seahawks, was released by St. Louis.

Hawthorne, signed to a free agent contract in the offseason, started the first five games at free safety. Mike Furrey replaced him in the second quarter of a 37-31 loss to Seattle and tied for the team lead with a career-high nine tackles, including seven solo stops.

* BILLS: Chris Villarrial returned to practice after spending Sunday night in the hospital because of an intestinal disorder that doubled him over in pain and limited his breathing, forcing him to miss Buffalo's 20-14 win over Miami.

Without divulging the exact nature of the condition, Villarrial said he is taking medication and expects to play when the Bills host the New York Jets on Sunday.

* JAGUARS: Running back Fred Taylor missed part of practice with a sprained right ankle and was downgraded to questionable for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.

Taylor injured his ankle late in last week's victory over Cincinnati. He ran 24 times for a season-high 132 yards, but sat out the final series after turning his ankle on a two-yard run with about four minutes to play.