While all around him people were shaking their heads at Jason Sehorn's misfortune, the injured New York Giants cornerback was matter-of-fact as could be.
"Hey, life goes on. I returned a kickoff and I got hurt," the star cornerback said Thursday night after tearing up his right knee on the opening kickoff of a 27-23 NFL exhibition loss to the New York Jets. "I don't regret anything I did. I wanted to try and help our team out. They pay me to play the game of football. They don't pay me to worry about getting hurt."
Sehorn, one of the league's premier cover men, was returning a kick for the first time in his five-year career. He was hit by Chris Hayes, fumbled the ball and tore both major knee ligaments.
"I went down, hit him and I saw the ball came loose," Hayes said. "I hate the fact that Jason got hurt. That takes away from everything. I'm going to pray for him tonight."
The Giants also blew a 10-point lead in losing their third straight exhibition game against their local rivals.
Dedric Ward caught a short pass from Vinny Testaverde and turned it into an 81-yard touchdown play t give the Jets the winning points with 3:10 left in the third quarter. The rally began when Leon Johnson returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown.
"I tried to turn to the sideline and there was nothing but open field after that," said Ward, who earlier dropped a perfect bomb in the end zone. "I was kind of thinking I was a decoy and then I turned around and the ball was there. Vinny put it only where I could catch it and you saw the result."
The result seemed so secondary for the Giants. Coach Jim Fassel wouldn't second-guess himself on using Sehorn to run back the kickoff.
"It was my worst nightmare that he would get hurt," Fassel said of the injury. "I don't make decisions worrying about what criticism if it doesn't work out. I've made my living making decisions. ... I'll quit coaching the day I don't try to put all of our players in the best position to win football games."
Sehorn's teammate, Charles Way, one of the league's most versatile fullbacks, sprained his left ankle and left the game in the opening minutes.
Even without two of their best players, the Giants' starters played well, especially quarterback Danny Kanell (16-for-25 for 156 yards), receiver Ike Hilliard (seven receptions, 77 yards) and defensive end Michael Strahan.
When the backups came in, the Jets surged to their third straight victory in the Big Apple series.
"We were a little better than last week," Jets coach Bill Parcells said, knowing that almost anything would be an improvement on a 33-0 home loss to Baltimore.
After falling behind 6-0, the Giants scored on Tiki Barber's run from the 1.
On their next possession, the Giants got passes of 19 and 12 yards from Kanell to Hilliard. Three days ago, Hilliard, who missed most of last season with neck surgery, was bothered by twinges in the back. Nothing seemed to bother him Thursday night.
Greg Comella spilled in from the 1 to make it 17-13 Giants at halftime.
The Jets got some of their key players involved, too. Glenn Foley and Wayne Chrebet combined on 27- and 23-yard pass plays in the team's two first-half TD drives. Chrebet caught a 3-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for the first score -- set up by Sehorn's fumble -- and Curtis Martin's slick cut freed him for a 14-yard touchdown run on the other drive.
Keyshawn Johnson had 99 yards on six catches.
The receivers came to play," Foley said. "Keyshawn and Wayne were on fire and Curtis broke a run. When that happens my job is not that difficult."
Percy Ellsworth's 42-yard interception return on the third play of the second half put the Giants on top 23-13. But the Jets took control after that, although they made it interesting at the end when John Hall missed a 37-yard field goal.
The Giants got to the Jets 23 before consecutive sacks clinched it.
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