Usually by mid-August, NFL teams can't wait to get the regular season started. The Green Bay Packers wouldn't mind if time stood still for a while.
The Packers could be without two of their most important players when they open the season on Sept. 3 against the New York Jets. Running back Dorsey Levens underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday to remove scar tissue from his left knee. Star quarterback Brett Favre has a sore throwing arm.
Favre has been told he needs more rest following an examination that confirmed tendinitis in his right arm. A test showed no tendon or ligament damage, but his availability for the rest of the preseason and the first game that counts is in doubt.
The Packers were worried about more damage to Levens' knee. Surgery revealed no damage, and coach Mike Sherman said Levens won't miss more than 3-4 weeks of work.
That would mean he wouldn't be back for the opener.
Levens carried five times for 68 yards in Green Bay's 26-20 preseason loss to Denver on Sunday. After the game, he had pain in the knee, and tests determined surgery was necessary.
Levens has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons. Last season, he rushed for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing two games with a rib injury. He missed nine games in the 1998 season with an ankle sprain and a broken fibula.
Also, Packers receiver Corey Bradford will miss from 6-8 weeks with a broken left ankle. Running back Ahman Green, Levens' primary backup, is out for four weeks with a sprained right knee ligament.
That leaves second-year running back Basil Mitchell as the Packers' top running back, with undrafted rookie Herbert Goodman behind him on the depth chart.
Center Cory Raymer, who has started 37 consecutive regular- season and playoff games, is on crutches with two partially torn ligaments in his right knee.
''I think in about a month we'll have an idea of how it's coming along,'' trainer Bubba Tyer said. ''The hope is getting him back on the field in six weeks.''
But if he has not healed by mid-September, Raymer might need season-ending surgery.
Vinny Testaverde's sore toe is healing much quicker than anticipated. Hurt in last Saturday night's loss at Baltimore, Testaverde was expected to miss at least a week. But he was back on the practice field Tuesday and looked fine.
At one point, Testaverde was forced to reset his feet before throwing a pass, and he didn't hobble a bit while doing so.
After spending the last month deciding whether he still wanted to play football, tackle Erik Williams rejoined the Cowboys on Tuesday.
''I wanted to leave on top and I was going to leave with a Pro Bowl,'' said Williams, a four-time Pro Bowl player. ''But I thought, 'Why not get another one and keep getting them and let them add up.'
''I'm not ready to move on yet. I still have a lot to give to this game.''
Dallas won't push Williams, 32, in the preseason, aiming to have him ready for the opener against the Eagles.
Greg Myers, who signed a two-year contract with Cincinnati in March, is negotiating an injury settlement with the club. He suffered a serious knee injury in the Bengals' preseason opener at Buffalo on Aug. 4.
Bengals officials plan to waive Myers, 27, and said an injury settlement was imminent. Myers started 34 of 58 games for the Bengals since being drafted in the fifth round out of Colorado State in 1996.
Injuries to Jerome Bettis, Richard Huntley, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and rookie Destry Wright leaves Amos Zereoue and two newcomers as the only Pittsburgh running backs.
''He's going to get a good bit of the work, there's no doubt about it,'' coach Bill Cowher said.
Against the Carolina Panthers last week, Zereoue played halfback on all three downs in the first half and on third downs in the second half. Zereoue also played on every special teams play.
Both Pepe Pearson and Lloyd Clemons were signed last week to take up the injury slack.
Cowher said Bettis and Fuamatu-Ma'afala will return to practice next week.
Kevin Johnson's strained right hamstring isn't fully healed, and he will sit out Saturday's home exhibition game against Washington. The second-year wide receiver also missed last weekend's game in Chicago.
Johnson was Tim Couch's prime target last season, catching 66 passes for 986 yards and eight touchdowns.
Couch threw three interceptions in the 19-6 loss to the Bears and admitted that he was pressing.
Running back Jerry Ellison, sidelined since hurting an elbow in the first preseason game, reached an injury settlement with Tampa Bay.
Ellison, a sixth-year pro, chipped a bone in his right elbow during Tampa Bay's preseason opener against Washington. He appeared in 64 consecutive games, mostly on special teams, for the Bucs from 1995 to 1998.
His 75-yard run against Detroit in 1995 is the second-longest in franchise history.
Still unable to go full speed because of a nagging foot injury, safety Carnell Lake will miss the season opener and maybe more.
Lake played in pain last season, with a broken bone in his left foot. He made the Pro Bowl, despite playing with an injury that made his every motion painful.
With Lake out, the Jaguars will move fifth-year safety Rayna Stewart into the starting lineup when they play at Cleveland on Sept. 3.
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