It's the ultimate nightmare for every NFL team -- two weeks before the regular season starts and a star is lying on the turf, holding his leg and writhing in pain.
Fortunately for the New York Giants and Lawrence Taylor, the linebacker came away from a first-quarter tangle with New York Jets tackle Ron Mattes with nothing more than what the Giants said was a sprained ankle.
"Lawrence continues to be a medical marvel," Giants coach Ray Handley said. "He's doing things he could not do last night. He's getting up on his toes, and, if there's not a plateauing of his condition, he might be OK in a couple of days."
Handley said Taylor was in a precarious situation when his leg was twisted under him at an angle of nearly 45 degrees, "but he has got such great flexibility it prevented a more serious injury."
Meanwhile, Handley said the game did little to decide the starting quarterback battle between Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler.
Simms, the starter for the past decade, was 10 of 20 for 155 yards and one interception, but he had six more catchable balls dropped. Hostetler, who took over when Simms was injured in the 14th game of last season and led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory, came in for the second half and went 9-for-9 for 95 yards and a touchdown.
* BILLS: Quarterback Jim Kelly, injured in an exhibition loss to the Packers on Saturday, said yesterday that he will play in the season opener Sept. 1 against Miami.
Kelly spent about an hour being examined by team physician Dr. Richard Weiss and emerged confirming the injury was a sprained ligament in the area where his left leg meets his foot.
* STEELERS: Reserve Neil O'Donnell (Maryland) played the entire second half of a 21-20 loss to the Eagles on Saturday night, leading the Steelers to 17 points in less than four minutes in the third quarter. He threw two touchdown passes.
"It was kind of frustrating out there at times," he said. "We had a couple of opportunities to put the ball in the end zone but we couldn't get them done. I am just trying to get as much playing time as possible. Thank God it is still preseason."
O'Donnell completed 11 of 19 passes for 117 yards with one interception; starter Bubby Brister managed just 6-for-14 for 26 yards.
* FALCONS: Starting right cornerback Deion Sanders opened the second half against Tampa Bay on Saturday as a wide receiver and made his first two NFL catches, for 21 yards and 52 yards, in a 12-7 loss.
"Deion really went up and got that one ball," Falcons coach Jerry Glanville said. "He knows how to seize the moment."
After the 52-yarder to the 2-yard line, Sanders drew a 5-yard penalty for an overzealous celebration.
* CARDINALS: The Dallas Morning News reported that former Redskin Dexter Manley hopes for a trade to Tampa Bay, which employs the 4-3 defense and needs defensive ends. The Cardinals are going with a 3-4 and have announced they don't plan to use Manley as a starter.