The job of quarterbacking the New York Giants belongs to Phil Simms unless Jeff Hostetler or somebody else takes it away, coach Ray Handley said yesterday.
That doesn't mean, however, that Simms is locked in as the Giants' opening day quarterback.
Ray Handley, who replaced Bill Parcells as coach on May 15, shed the first real light on the quarterbacking situation yesterday, announcing the 35-year-old Simms would start the team's first preseason game, Monday against Buffalo.
"To me, Phil is the incumbent. He has to be unseated," Handley said. "I've said this from the start and I'm not backtracking on this."
Simms, the Giants' starter since 1984, has compiled a 68-33 record as a starter and guided the team to five playoff appearances. His 22-for-25 passing performance against Denver in Super Bowl XXI still ranks as the most efficient ever.
Hostetler has only started seven games since being drafted by the Giants in 1984, and the team has won all seven. He replaced an injured Simms in December last season and led the Giants to their second Super Bowl title, a 20-19 triumph over Buffalo.
Handley said Simms' abilities have not diminished, but added that Hostetler, 30, has earned the right to compete for the starting job.
"If Jeff cannot unseat him, then Phil will start the season," Handley said. "That's the only way I look at it. Maybe I never stated it exactly that way. To me it's the only logical way to go about it. Maybe Jeff will play better."
* STEELERS: The NFL will conduct a second analysis of the July 11 urine sample of Terry Long, an offensive lineman who reportedly attempted suicide twice last week after telling teammates he had tested positive for steroid use, a league official said yesterday.
Greg Aiello, the NFL's director of communications, would not comment on Long's situation. But he said that a player who has had such a preseason urine sample test positive for steroids had two weeks to offer the league any medical explanation for such a result.
During that two weeks, the second analysis is conducted. If the second analysis is also positive and the player does not have a good explanation, then he is suspended for two weeks and has to sit out the first four weeks of the regular season.
If the second analysis is negative, then the league assumes the first analysis was flawed and does not suspend the player.
* PACKERS: Linebacker Brian Noble will miss from four to six weeks after suffering a partial tear in the medial ligament of his right knee. Noble was injured during a Sunday scrimmage at the team's indoor practice facility, which is covered by artificial turf. Head coach Lindy Infante said he opened he would return in time for the season-opener against the Phiadelphia Eagles Sept. 1.
* RAMS: Former Denver Broncos tackle Gerald Perry took his physical exam and reported to training camp at Irvine, Calif.
"I'm grateful to the Rams for giving me this second opportunity, for having enough faith in me to give me another chance," said Perry, who was released Saturday from Arapahoe County Jail in Colorado. "It feels good to be able to play football again.
"And it feels especially good to be out [of jail], making my own decisions."
Perry was jailed May 23 for third-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor. He had extra time added for violation of parole on an earlier offense, but was released early for good behavior.
All told, Perry served two brief jail sentences during a three-year career in Denver that was marked by a number of arrests for solicitation of prostitution and assault and battery. He was acquitted of three assault charges.
Perry blamed immaturity and alcohol for most of his off-the-field problems.
* COLTS: Indianapolis begins exhibition play Friday night at Denver without linebackers Jeff Herrod and Duane Bickett and free safety Mike Prior, all nursing nagging injuries.
Bickett and Herrod have both missed a week of practice, Bickett with a strained arch in his foot, and Herrod with a pulled hamstring. Prior has been out since late last week with a strained abdominal muscle.
* LIONS: The twinge in Rodney Peete's left groin muscle has subsided, and the starting quarterback isn't counting himself out of Friday night's home exhibition opener at the Silverdome against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Not at all," he said.
Were it a regular-season game, "I'd be very optimistic about playing," Peete insisted. "But I'm not going to push it. I'm going to make sure it's totally healed before I go out there."