Jim Kelly will begin practicing with the Buffalo Bills today and, according to the team doctor, will be ready for Saturday's AFC playoff game against the Miami Dolphins.
"He's right on schedule," said Dr. Richard Weiss, the Bills' team doctor, yesterday. "He's going to play this weekend, I'm sure. He's right on schedule and there's no reason to think anything else."
Kelly tore ligaments and cartilage in his left knee against the New York Giants on Dec. 15. Weiss said then that Kelly would be ready for the second week of the NFL playoffs.
Kelly, the NFL's top-rated passer this season, walked briskly out of Rich Stadium yesterday and declined to comment on his status.
Coach Marv Levy wasn't as bold as Weiss, saying he wants to see how Kelly responds in practice. "I'm not trying to be blase about it, but it's sort of a let's see."
Levy said Kelly, who began a strenuous rehabilitation program last week, has been keeping his arm limber while avoiding putting undue stress on the knee.
"I understand he went out on his own and tried to throw [yesterday]," Levy said. "He told me he felt good."
Levy said he won't take any special precautions during today's practice to ensure Kelly doesn't aggravate the injury.
"He'll participate in our practice," Levy said. "[If] the doctor says he can go, he goes. If he says he's limited, he's limited. He [Weiss] hasn't told me anything" about limitations."
Levy said he probably won't announce a starter until Saturday. Frank Reich is Kelly's backup.
* STEELERS: Defensive right end Donald Evans, who started all 16 of Pittsburgh's games this season, underwent surgery on his right elbow.
The operation, performed by Dr. Thomas W. Cowan at Divine Providence Hospital, was described as a routine procedure to clean up the tissue in the right elbow. Evans, who signed with the Steelers last year as a Plan B free agent, is expected to recover fully before training camp opens in July.
* BENGALS: Quarterback Boomer Esiason assured the team that he was only joking when he chided the front office for its frugal ways.
After the Bengals beat Houston 41-14 Sunday to advance in the playoffs, Esiason joked that the team probably would take a train or small plane to Los Angeles to play the Raiders on Sunday.
"We're leaving tomorrow on a train, or a small plane, and stop four times for gas," Esiason said. "We'll probably leave Saturday and probably stop at Boise, Idaho, to get gas."
When the Bengals flew to Los Angeles three weeks ago, they flew the day before the game and had to make a refueling stop in Kansas City as part of an eight-hour trip. The Bengals lost 24-7.