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George may start for reeling Colts

Jeff George, still sore but ready to resume practice, might return as the Indianapolis Colts' starting quarterback by default. For the fifth straight season, the Colts' starter is on the sideline, facing major surgery that will keep him out the rest of the year.

Two others, including George, are still on the mend. A fourth, the oldest player in the NFL, hasn't played regularly in six years, and coach Ron Meyer said Monday the Colts are looking to sign another quarterback.

"If Jeff is healthy, we will go with him," Meyer said. "We just have to wait to see how he comes back in practice before we say whether he will start. We're contemplating other quarterbacks, but there's been no decision at this time."

Ex-Buc Joe Ferguson, 40, the only healthy quarterback currently on the roster, was forced, unprepared, onto the field Sunday in a 27-7 loss to Miami.

Jack Trudeau, who first won the starting job in 1986 when Gary Hogeboom separated a shoulder against Miami, suffered severe damage to the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee.

George, the first player taken in this year's draft, started the first three games and then missed three games with a pulled abdominal muscle. He sustained a painful bruise on his left knee in a relief appearance Sunday. Mark Herrmann, in his ninth year, has been on injured reserve for more than a month with a separated shoulder and is not expected to be ready for another week or two.

"You never make up for the loss of a football player," Meyer said. "This just accentuates the quarterback dilemma we've had ever since I've been here. It's been a yo-yo effect. What's tough is you take a step backwards because of the preparation.

"It's very difficult for a backup quarterback to come in and do well."

George said the injuries were not due to inadequate protection.

"You can get hurt no matter where you're at," he said. "Right now, everybody's talking about the quarterbacks, but you can't worry about that. I'm getting great protection. I have no complaints."

Meyer has had 15 quarterbacks on the roster for at least one game since he became coach late in the 1986 season. He might have been in better shape if Chris Chandler was still around, but Chandler was traded to Tampa Bay before the season.

Twenty quarterbacks have been listed on the roster since the Colts moved here in 1984 from Baltimore.

Herrmann, who was standing along the sideline where Trudeau went down, said, "I got kind of a sick feeling. I don't know what it is. There's a voodoo doll out there somewhere."

Around the league

Judge rules against NFL management: The NFL was ordered by a federal judge Monday to increase player benefits by $29.4-million because the league failed to make contributions that were required in 1985 and 1986. The dispute centers on the management council's claim that it doesn't have to pay the money because it would not have been tax deductible in the year it was paid. The lawyer for the NFL Management Council said the decision would be appealed. U.S. District Judge Joseph C. Howard ordered that the damages be used to increase player pensions, disability payments and survivor benefits.

Bengals: Running back Harold Green was hospitalized after fainting on the team's flight back from a 38-17 loss in Atlanta. Tests found that Green's blood sugar level was abnormal, according to coach Sam Wyche. Green was released from the hospital Monday afternoon.

Lions: The team announced that All-Pro linebacker Chris Spielman, quarterback Rodney Peete and strong safety William White have signed contract extensions.

Broncos: Running back Blake Ezor pleaded guilty to attempted retail fraud and was sentenced to 24 hours of community service by a judge who told him to straighten out his public image.

Patriots: Coach Rod Rust said quarterback Tommy Hodson, a third-round draft choice from Louisiana State, might start Sunday against the Eagles.

Vikings: Roger Headrick, a former executive at Pillsbury Co. and Exxon Corp., was named to succeed Mike Lynn as the team's chief executive officer.

Redskins: Quarterback Mark Rypien says his injured left knee is healing well and that he could begin taking snaps in practice next week.

49ers: Wide receiver Mike Sherrard will undergo surgery this morning to insert a steel plate in his broken right leg. Sherrard, who broke bones in his right leg in 1987 and 1988, will be lost to the team for the rest of the regular season but could return in time for the playoffs.