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RETURN EXPERIMENT BACKFIRES ON GIANTS: SEHORN LOST FOR SEASON

The Giants suffered a devastating blow Thursday night on the opening kickoff of their 27-23, preseason loss to the New York Jets, losing star cornerback Jason Sehorn to a season-ending right knee injury.

Sehorn, arguably the team's most indispensable player, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament in the knee. He is due to have an MRI Friday and undergo season-ending surgery sometime next week.

Coach Jim Fassel is certain to be criticized for allowing Sehorn to return kickoffs, and admitted earlier this summer that if Sehorn were to get hurt, he would be open to second-guessing.

It was the first kickoff return of Sehorn's pro career after a summer of anticipation over Fassel's experiment to jumpstart the Giants' weak kickoff return unit, which was last in the league in 1997.

Sehorn is one of the best athletes in the NFL. He narrowly missed out on the Pro Bowl last season but was expected to have a good chance this season.

Leon Johnson returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown as the Jets rallied for the victory.

Vinny Testaverde capped a third-quarter rally from a 10-point deficit by hitting Dedric Ward with an 81-yard scoring pass play for the Jets (2-1), but the staggering setback for the Giants (1-2) was the loss of Sehorn.

An MRI was scheduled for today. Reconstructive knee surgery will be done within 10 days.

Sehorn said someone fell on his leg and there was a popping sound in his knee after that. He insisted he had no regrets after the game.

". . . I can't get upset about it and ask why?" he said. "I got hurt. I play the game of football, the risk is out there and I got hurt."

Dolphins lose Green again

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins wide receiver Yatil Green, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury, is out for 1998 as well after the graft from his previous surgery gave out, officials said Thursday.

Green ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Wednesday while running a pass route in practice. It was the third injury to the knee in 13 months.

"This is an unfortunate injury," said coach Jimmy Johnson, who drafted Green with the Dolphins' first-round pick last year.

This summer, Green opted for minor surgery when doctors found torn cartilage following an Aug. 1 scrimmage. He had been cleared to resume workouts Wednesday.

The Dolphins did get a bit of good news Thursday when defensive tackle Tim Bowens ended a four-week holdout when he accepted the team's tender offer and pledge to work on a long-term agreement.

Bowens, designated Miami's "franchise" player in February, will play for $2.88 million in 1998. Under league rules, the Dolphins had to offer Bowens the average of the five highest-paid players at his position.

Bowens was scheduled to arrive in camp today to begin conditioning. Johnson said he would not be available for Sunday's exhibition at San Francisco, but should be ready for the exhibition finale against Green Bay.

Shuler may be done in '98

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Heath Shuler, the top quarterback taken in the 1994 NFL draft, is waiting for a doctor's decision that could end his season, if not his disappointing career.

Shuler flew here from the Saints' training camp in La Crosse, Wis., to have his injured left foot examined by orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. Shuler was expected to have his foot placed in a cast for two weeks, but it was not clear if he would be able to salvage this season, let alone a career once expected to see him among the top NFL quarterbacks.

The foot has continued to bother Shuler since he had surgery in December to remove crushed bones and repair torn ligaments. He had a cast on the foot from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6, but that apparently did not help.

Around the league

The New England Patriots signed middle linebacker Ted Johnson to a five-year, $25 million contract extension. Johnson, who has led the Patriots in tackles for the past two seasons, was to make $403,000 this season, the last on his previous contract.

Quarterback Kerry Collins, whose nose was broken last week in a game against the Buffalo Bills, will sit out Saturday when his Carolina Panthers play at home against the Minnesota Vikings.

Earl Holmes, who established himself as one of the NFL's most productive inside linebackers in his first season as a starter last year, has signed a three-year contract extension worth $7 million with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The deal includes a signing bonus of at least $1 million.

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