SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — SANTA CLARA, Calif.
RONNIE LOTT'S late-game intensity provided some of the most memorable images from Monday night's defensive struggle between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.
There was Lott breaking up a Phil Simms pass on third-and-goal late in the game; there was Lott in Simms' face after an incompletion ended the Giants' hope of scoring.
Yesterday morning, Lott was paying the price for those late-game images.
Lott sprained both knees in the fourth quarter of Monday's 7-3 victory, before the key play on the third-down pass. He probably will miss Sunday's game with the Cincinnati Bengals, but Lott said team physician Michael Dillingham thought he could be back in action for the Los Angeles Rams game Dec. 17.
"I'm just taking it day to day . . . I haven't personally ruled out Sunday," Lott said.
Without Lott, the 49ers will be strapped for safeties. Strong safety Chet Brooks, still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, did not even dress for Monday's game and Dave Waymer replaced him.
"I'd say there's a chance we'd have Chet back," said coach George Seifert. If Brooks were not available, Waymer and Johnny Jackson would be the safeties.
Lott, maneuvering gingerly on crutches yesterday, was scheduled to have Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests done on both knees to determine the extent of any ligament damage.
Lott said the left knee was the more serious of the two injuries and would be kept in a splint.
He said he injured the right knee midway through the fourth quarter, making a hit on tight end Mark Bavaro, though not the monstrous hit that was replayed again and again on television.
"I must have landed wrong," Lott said.
The more serious injury, to the left knee, occurred later during the Giants' drive that took them inside the 49ers' 10-yard-line.
When the Giants had a first down at the 49ers' 31, Simms handed the ball off to running back Ottis Anderson. Anderson gained 3 yards and was tackled by Charles Haley. Defensive end Kevin Fagan was in on the tackle, and when he dived across the pile, he hit Lott -- who was standing by the pile -- in the shin.
"Kevin said he hit me so hard that he thought he might've knocked himself out," Lott said. "He thought he did a lot of damage."
Lott came limping off after the play and missed one play. But the Giants stopped the clock when center Bart Oates requested a new ball, and Lott was quickly back in the game.
"I wanted to play . . . I didn't think I was risking any further damage," Lott said. "I didn't think it was that bad, because I continued to play. At the time, I knew they were both unstable, but it wasn't until after the game that I realized both were pretty sore. That's when the adrenaline goes down and you start feeling the pain."
Lott's adrenaline was obviously at a high level Monday. After Simms threw an incomplete pass on fourth down at the end of the Giants' drive, Simms and Lott went helmet to helmet in TC heated exchange.
"I was really excited and emotional at the time, and I said some things that were in the heat of the battle," Lott said.
Lott did not specify what he said, but he denied that he called Simms a "choker," the story that was circulating after the game.
"I'm letting you know I didn't say that," Lott said. "I would never say anyone is a choker."
Lott and Simms spoke on the field after the game. Simms reportedly said: "All the years I've played in the league, I've respected you more than anybody."
"I was trying to apologize for what I said," Lott said.
They spoke again when Simms came looking for Lott in the 49ers' locker room.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Lott said. "I've always thought he was a great quarterback. I wanted to leave it like that, with the fact that we have respect for each other."