JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- From Day 1, Tom Coughlin felt he could build a Super Bowl champion around Tony Boselli. Coughlin's plan might work, although Boselli won't be playing if it reaches fruition this year.
The cornerstone of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right knee Monday.
It ended Boselli's season two games short of the Super Bowl and soured
what should have been a jubilant day for the Jaguars (14-2), who beat
the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to enter the playoffs as the top seed in
``The start of a new season is here, and it's a great time to be excited,'
Coughlin said. ``We're saddened by the loss of Tony, but we just have to
keep going forward.'
Boselli is expected to spend about seven months rehabilitating the knee.
The loss of an offensive lineman wouldn't normally raise so many red
flags, but Boselli is not just another lineman.
The 6-foot-7, 320-pound All-Pro out of Southern Cal was selected to
his fourth straight Pro Bowl this season. He's recognized by many as the
best lineman in the league.
In every way, he has lived up to the expectations that surfaced when
Coughlin decided to build his franchise around Boselli in 1995.
Boselli felt his way around the league through his rookie year, then
blossomed along with his entire team in 1996.
He allowed only three sacks all season, and when he stonewalled Bruce
Smith in a playoff upset over the Bills -- holding him to three tackles and
no sacks -- his reputation began to form.
A well-respected team leader, Boselli will still be around for the playoffs,
teaching from the sidelines. But that's no substitute for having him on the
``We've had our share of injuries and this is another,' Coughlin said.
``Obviously, it's a huge blow to our team.'
Boselli's season ended on a running play in which he moved upfield, took
a small pop from one of the Bengals, then felt his knee buckle as he
prepared to plant and make a hit.
He clutched the leg, then fell to the ground. Some wondered if the
condition of the field -- torn up from the Gator Bowl game at Alltel
Stadium on Saturday -- was a factor.
Coughlin dismissed that.
``I don't think that particular incident was the cause of it,' Coughlin said.
``But I also don't think it was as good as it should have been for what
was at stake.'
Boselli was not available for comment after the game and didn't grant
``He's trying to deal with it as best he can,' Coughlin said. ``Today's a
more difficult day than yesterday. Reality is setting in and it's not a
Boselli's injury isn't the only problem the Jaguars face.
Right tackle Leon Searcy, also a Pro Bowl selection, sustained a high
ankle sprain that put him out for the second half. He underwent an MRI
Monday. Ben Coleman, who will replace Boselli at left tackle, has been
dealing with a gimpy knee all season.
``We've got to use the personnel we've got,' running back Fred Taylor
said. ``They've got to step it up. Ben will be the person to take over.
He's been in that position before.'
Meanwhile, quarterback Mark Brunell is still working his way back from
the strained ligament he sustained last week in a 41-14 loss to
Tennessee. Coughlin hopes Brunell can practice again by Friday and will
be ready for the playoff game Jan. 15.
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