Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie will be out until at least September after suffering a severe groin injury when he slipped in practice Thursday.
''He's going to be out quite a while, probably into the regular season,'' coach Wade Phillips said after learning the result of an MRI. ''We don't know the timetable yet, but it's a severe injury.''
Flutie's injury, sustained at the Bills' training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., didn't initially appear serious.
''His foot slipped a little bit.'' Phillips said. ''It didn't grab. Just typical of what happens when you strain a groin.''
The injury occurred when Flutie, taking a snap from center, appeared ready to run the ball up the middle, but the turf gave out under his right leg. Flutie went down face-first and grimaced in pain while holding his leg.
''It could be a lot worse,'' Flutie said. ''Of course it could've been a couple of days, too. But I'm not missing hopefully too much of the season. Just take it from there.''
Flutie's injury came the day that starting quarterback Rob Johnson made his first appearance at practice since Monday. A stomach virus forced him to miss three straight practices.
Johnson did not participate in Thursday morning's practice, instead watching from the sidelines. He was expected to be ready, Phillips said.
Center Dermontti Dawson's hamstring is hurting again. And running back Richard Huntley joined him.
The Steelers don't think the Dawson's injury is serious -- it might be only scar tissue tearing apart after months away from football -- but it is worrisome given his hamstring problems of last season.
Huntley, expected to compete with Jerome Bettis for playing time after signing a $4 million, three-year contract, injured his left hamstring during practice Thursday afternoon and is out indefinitely.
Dawson an All-Pro fixture during the 1990s, missed nine games and lasted only three plays of another.
Before last season, Dawson had not missed a game in 10 years. Now, at age 35, he is questioning his own durability.
''After that episode last year, you've got to wonder: How much longer can I last?'' Dawson said. ''You've got to have your legs. If you don't have your legs, you can't run. And if you can't run, you can't play.''
Right now, he's not playing, at least not in an exhibition game Sunday in Dallas.
''We're erring on the side of caution with this,'' said coach Bill Cowher, who suddenly finds himself without any of his top three centers. ''It's something you have to deal with.''
Defensive back Ray Crockett and linebacker Glenn Cadrez pulled hamstrings.
''We're hopeful that these will not prove to be serious,'' said team spokesman Jim Saccomano. ''It's a day-to-day situation at this point, but hamstrings can be kind of funny, and it can take a little longer than one had thought.''
Receiver Oronde Gadsden signed a two-year contract extension through 2002.
Financial terms weren't disclosed, and Gadsden's agent didn't return a phone call seeking comment. Last week, Gadsden signed a $358,000 contract for this year.
The 28-year-old receiver was second on the Dolphins last year with 48 catches for 803 yards and six touchdowns.
Tackle Richmond Webb, after consulting with a specialist Wednesday, decided against surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow. Webb will continue receiving treatment, but is expected to miss the first exhibition game, Aug. 5 in Pittsburgh.
Children will replace Fetch Monster, the popular pooch who retrieved kicking tees during New Orleans Saints games.
Arnold Fielkow, director of administration for the team, agrees with a fan advisory board recommendation to allow children to retrieve the tee.
Fetch Monster is an Australian Shepherd whose owners got as much as $1,000 a game to fly to New Orleans from Houston. The kids will have to settle for the thrill of being on the football field.
From one to four children will be picked for each home game. Fielkow was unsure how the children will be selected.
One day after team owner Jeffrey Lurie blasted the state of negotiations with first-round draft pick Corey Simon, and said he would not relent in contract talks, there appeared to be significant progress in getting a deal done in the next day or two.
Broadcast reports indicated a softening in the stances of Simon's agents, Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker, and the Eagles' chief negotiator Joe Banner.
It was apparent in recent days that Simon was interested in pursuing a four-year contract, after which he would become an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles, on the other hand, want to sign him to a longer-term deal.
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