Tight end Eric Green, the Pittsburgh Steelers' leading receiver, fractured his right ankle in practice yesterday and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Green broke an ankle bone during a routine passing drill as the Steelers prepared for tomorrow's game against the Houston Oilers.
"He went up to catch a pass and was bumped a little," coach Chuck Noll said. "He came down, his ankle rolled over and it popped."
Green leads the team with 41 receptions for 582 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, he led all NFL tight ends with seven touchdown catches, a record among Steelers tight ends.
With tight end Mike Mularkey's status downgraded to doubtful yesterday because of a back injury, the Steelers will start rookie Adrian Cooper.
"It's a tough break," offensive coordinator Joe Walton said of Green's injury. "The poor kid's been playing hurt since the beginning of the year anyway. He's struggled with the knee. You know it's part of the game, but it's still tough when it happens to one of your better players."
Green, 6 feet 5, 280 pounds, was taken to Divine Providence Hospital for X-rays. The fracture was confirmed by the team's physician, Dr. Thomas Cowan.
On Aug. 4, Green suffered ligament damage in his left knee in the Steelers' first exhibition game. The injury limited his practice time, but he was able to start all 11 games.
* 49ERS: Wide receiver Jerry Rice says his knee is close to 90 percent healthy, but that the ailment is only part of his problems. Injuries, mainly to starter Joe Montana, have forced him to get used to the playing styles of two other quarterbacks.
"I prefer the deep ball any time," he said. "But Steve Young and Steve Bono are not going to stay with me at times, as Joe [Montana] would. Joe is the type of quarterback who will hang with me a little longer because we had that chemistry going. When Joe went down, it really changed our entire season."
San Francisco is 5-6.
* BROWNS: A sexual assault complaint against wide receivers Reggie Langhorne and Webster Slaughter has been dropped, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office announced.
A 26-year-old woman from suburban Mentor had claimed that she was attacked in a limousine after a party Oct. 31 at a downtown tavern. The woman told police one player had raped her while another watched but did not interfere.
But the woman told prosecutors yesterday that she no longer wished to pursue the case, said a statement issued by prosecutor Stephanie Tubbs Jones.
* PACKERS: Tom Braatz, fired Wednesday as vice president of football operations, said yesterday that his successor must be given more power.
"Executive vice president of football operations is a top-heavy title without the power of a general manager," said Braatz in his first public comments on his firing.
"The next person needs to have that title and leverage to bring all department heads together for the common goal."
Braatz and coach Lindy Infante were given equal say on personnel decisions. Braatz said his relationship with Infante "has always been good."
"It's not the way the other 27 teams do it. It just happened to be one that was designed for this situation," Braatz said. "That's the way it was, 50-50 say in all personnel matters.