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Peter King
October 28, 2002
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October 28, 2002

The Nfl

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Managing the salary cap is never easy. Just ask Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, who last February had to sever ties with the first draft pick in franchise history, popular left tackle Tony Boselli, to get the team under the cap. In so doing he alienated not only the fans who had become attached to Boselli, but also his wife, Judy, who'd become very close to Tony and his wife, Angi. "When I finally told Judy, she started throwing things at me," Coughlin recalls. "She got mad. She said, 'You are the biggest jerk in the world!' "

In a football sense, however, Coughlin made a prescient move. A deal was struck with the Texans: Jacksonville would expose three stalwarts (defensive tackles Seth Payne and Gary Walker as well as Boselli) in the expansion draft if Houston would agree to take all of them—and their combined $16.9 million cap value—off the Jaguars' hands. The Texans came through, clearly valuing the solid defensive players for their long-term impact even though Boselli, who since 1999 had torn the labrum in each shoulder and undergone reconstructive surgery on his right knee, was a risk. Unfortunately for Houston, that risk became reality: Boselli had to have additional surgery on his left shoulder in June, never took the field for the Texans and last week was placed on injured reserve, lost for the year.

"If you'd have asked me last January, 'Will Tony Boselli need additional shoulder surgery?' I'd have bet the house he wouldn't have," says Houston general manager Charley Casserly.

Boselli, who had a second operation on the left shoulder in late April, says that Jacksonville doctors told him in the off-season that he would be "as good as new" by training camp. Instead, an impingement that wouldn't go away with rehab necessitated a third operation on the shoulder, and there wasn't time to get it strong enough to withstand NFL play. Coughlin insisted last week that the Jaguars were open with Boselli and the Texans about the shoulder (doctors representing Houston and the NFL also checked out the tackle), but Boselli says, "I'm disappointed I was told one thing and something else happened."

The three-player dump by Jacksonville could also wind up affecting the balance of power in the new AFC South. The Jaguars, who were $24 million over the cap during the off-season, are scheduled to be $12 million under it after this year; it remains to be seen whether Houston will get its money's worth out of the three players. "We thought about those implications," Casserly says. "We had to do what we could to make our team better. Jacksonville had a big problem, but Tom Coughlin would have found some way to keep winning."

Perhaps, but he got a huge assist from the Texans.

Dispatches
Lousy Footing In Oakland

Sebastian Janikowski is killing the Raiders. The man with the lethal left leg missed field goals of 27 and 48 yards in regulation of a 27-21 OT loss to San Diego and has made only 7 of 11 tries this year. What's worse, with an early November court date looming for a DUI charge, Janikowski could face disciplinary action from the league....

New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's strategy has been a big factor in Baltimore's recent 3-1 run. He's more blitz-happy than predecessor Marvin Lewis was, which pleases all the young pups on the Ravens' defense....

Boss Bailey, a 6'3", 231-pound senior linebacker at Georgia, might be a top 10 pick, just as his brother Champ, an All-America corner for the Dawgs, was in '99 when Washington took him seventh. "Likes the game more than Champ, and he's a better competitor," reads one team's scouting report on Boss.

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