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Cowboys rookie center Johnson expected to miss season

Posted: Friday August 08, 2003 7:51 PM
Updated: Friday August 08, 2003 8:54 PM

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Dallas Cowboys rookie center Al Johnson, the team's second-round pick and a projected starter, is expected to miss the season after right knee surgery Friday.

After an exploratory arthroscopic procedure in Colorado revealed significant degeneration of the cartilage in Johnson's knee, more extensive surgery was done to repair the knee, the team said.

Johnson hurt his knee last Saturday when the Cowboys were practicing with the Houston Texans. It was initially diagnosed as a twisted knee and the team hoped the 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman from Wisconsin would be able to play without surgery.

Already uncertain of Johnson's status, the Cowboys on Wednesday signed five-year veteran center Gennaro DiNapoli, who played the past three seasons with Tennessee, where he started all 16 games last season.

DiNapoli is expected to play Saturday night for the Cowboys in their preseason opener at Arizona even though he has only been through four practices. Matt Lehr, a second-year guard/center, will likely start.

DiNapoli had expected to re-sign with the Titans, even after he was released during the offseason so the team could avoid paying a $1 million roster bonus. But DiNapoli, Oakland's fourth-round pick in 1998, said he wasn't waiting any longer when he got a chance to play for Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells.

Less than a week into training camp, Johnson was already listed as the No. 1 center on the Cowboys depth chart.

It is the second year in a row that a promising Cowboys rookie suffered a serious injury early in camp. Fullback Jamar Martin, a fourth-round pick who was pushing for a starting job, suffered a torn ligament in his right knee the first week of last year's camp and spent the season on injured reserve.

  • Larry Allen sat out a few practice sessions this week. Earlier in camp, he got so frustrated after being dominated by La'Roi Glover in a drill that he slammed his helmet down and sulked alone in the end zone.

    Such incidents have raised questions about the health of the Dallas Cowboys' seven-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman, who played just five games last year when he had shoulder and ankle surgeries.

    Head coach Bill Parcells didn't sound too concerned about the left guard.

    "I just think we have to get some of the rust off. He really hasn't played much the last two years," Parcells said. "That's really all it is. You don't get in tune with this game by watching, by riding a bike."

    Parcells plans for the starting offensive line to play about one-third of the offensive snaps in Saturday's preseason opener at Arizona. And that includes the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Allen.

    Redskins sign new kicker for exhibition opener

    ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- Washington kicker John Hall strained his groin in the final practice, prompting the Redskins to sign free agent Matt Simonton to kick in Saturday's game at Carolina.

    Simonton, from Southern Illinois, spent the 2001 and 2002 training camps with St. Louis.

    Hall was hurt during Thursday afternoon's practice. Although the injury was described as mild, it is a bothersome development for a team that has used 11 different kickers in regular season games over the last eight years.

    Hall was signed to give some stability to the position, agreeing to a five-year, $7.1 million contract as a free agent from the New York Jets. The Redskins were so committed to Hall that they decided not to bring in another kicker at the start of training camp.

    LT unlikely to play against Seahawks

    CARSON, Calif. (AP) -- He's not among the numerous injured, but running back LaDainian Tomlinson still isn't likely to play Saturday night when the San Diego Chargers visit the Seattle Seahawks for their exhibition opener.

    Not only is Tomlinson the key to the Chargers' offense, but there's a lack of proven depth behind him. If Tomlinson were to get injured, "Marty Ball" would deflate quickly.

    Head coach Marty Schottenheimer said he is leaning toward sitting Tomlinson; Tomlinson has given hints he won't play against the Seahawks.

    Those not playing because of injuries are defensive end Marcellus Wiley (hamstring); tight end Stephen Alexander (groin); lineman Toniu Fonoti (triceps); wideouts Eric Parker (shoulder); Dondre Gilliam (knee) and Kassim Osgood (thumb); defensive tackle Leonardo Carson (calf); safety Terrence Kiel (leg); and running back Antoineo Harris (knee).

    Seahawks to get good look at new QBs

    SEATTLE (AP) -- Jeff Kelly could have gone home to Alabama to work as a securities broker. Seneca Wallace could have switched to receiver, as many NFL teams have asked the 5-foot-11 playmaker to do.

    Instead, they'll each take snaps and throw passes when the Seattle Seahawks play their exhibition opener Saturday night at home against the San Diego Chargers.

    Kelly, a second-year pro, and Wallace, a rookie, are competing for the No. 3 quarterback job for the Seahawks.

    "There's no rivalry," Kelly said. "I've been helping him out, and all the quarterbacks are helping each other with the offense. I know that Seneca and I both want to win this game."

    Starter Matt Hasselbeck will play only a few series against the Chargers, and Trent Dilfer is out with a strained abdominal muscle. Coaches are eager to see Kelly and Wallace under game conditions.

    "We'll see if they can play," offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said. "We've been practicing so much, giving them every situation we can. Now, they actually get to do it in a game. How do they react to it?"

    Vick-Favre showdown won't last long

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Seven months ago, Michael Vick led the Atlanta Falcons to an improbable playoff victory at Lambeau Field. He'll get another crack at the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night, but this one won't last long.

    Vick will play the first quarter and a bit of the second before taking a seat in the Falcons' preseason opener.

    "I don't have to go out and prove anything," he said. "We'll just go out, and I'll continue to polish up my skills. I might get some different looks, but it's not a whole game, so you really can't get into it, into the flow of the game like I want to. But it's enough to get going."

    For Brett Favre, it will take even less to get going. The Green Bay quarterback is expected to play only a couple of series, just as he did Monday in the Packers' preseason debut.

    "From my standpoint ... it really wasn't much of anything, except getting drilled one time," said Favre, who survived a shot by former teammate Vonnie Holliday only two plays into the game.

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