Kelly's health to determine Reich's status

AFC notebook

January 10, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- For the second straight week, Frank Reich delivered as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback.

Now the question is whether he'll get a third week.

After the Bills eliminated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-3, in an AFC semifinal at Three Rivers Stadium yesterday, Jim Kelly, Buffalo's injured starter, said he wants to play in next week's AFC championship game.

Kelly injured his right knee in the Bills' final game of the regular season.

"I'm going to start rehab on Monday," Kelly said. "I'd like to be in there for the next game. I have to wait to see how it feels. The decision is up to the coaches. If they go with Frank, he'll be running our offense."

And if coach Marv Levy goes back to Kelly, Reich will retreat quietly to the bench.

"I'm not thinking about that," Reich said after throwing for 160 yards and two touchdowns. "I've had an awful lot of fun the last two weeks. I'll respect any decision Coach Levy makes."

Reich, an eight-year career backup in the NFL, is 6-2 as the Bills' starter. He's 2-0 in the playoffs, having engineered last week's 41-38 victory over the Houston Oilers with a record comeback.

"When Jim's healthy, he'll be our quarterback," wide receiver Don Beebe said. "There's no controversy here. Frank Reich is the best backup

quarterback in the league."

Injury report

The Steelers lost left tackle John Jackson to a frightening injury halfway through the fourth quarter. But the fifth-year veteran appears to have escaped serious injury.

Jackson attempted to hurdle teammate Barry Foster after a short pass play but was hit by Bills linebacker Mark Maddox in mid-jump and landed on his head and shoulders.

He was taken from the field by ambulance for precautionary measures with numbness in his legs.

X-rays taken at Allegheny General Hospital were normal, and normal movement and feeling have returned.

A precautionary CT scan was taken, and Jackson was to be kept overnight for observation.

The preliminary diagnosis is a spinal cord contusion in the lower back.

The Steelers also lost cornerback Rod Woodson to a mild concussion in the second quarter and a fractured left hand in the fourth.

BYe-bye, bye team

The Steelers became the first bye team in the NFL's six-team playoff format to lose in the divisional round.

In each of the preceding two years under the format, the division winners drawing byes advanced to the conference championship.

Maryland reunion

Reich sought out Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell after the game and offered consolation. Both quarterbacks played at Maryland, although not at the same time.

"I said it was a great season, and Neil had a great year," Reich said. "The people of Pittsburgh should be proud of him and the team. It wasn't easy today for us. Our defense played extremely well."

O'Donnell, who went 9-4 as the Steelers starter, said he was happy with the season, but not the finish.

"[Am I] happy? All in all, yes," he said. "But I'm not happy right now. Look at the first half. We were down 7-3, our defense played well enough to win, and we knew we had to score points against their defense. We just didn't do that.

"It's frustrating right now. It's going to be a bad taste in my mouth for a while. But I'm going to go home, relax, spend some time at home and I'll be back next year ready to get going."

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