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Abraham weighing his risk vs. reward

Would you risk a $20-million payday to help your team

win a playoff game? Welcome to John Abraham's world.

Abraham, the Jets' prolific pass rusher, cast doubt yesterday on whether he

will be healthy enough to return Saturday night in the Jets' wild-card playoff

game in San Diego.

"I am practicing," Abraham said after his first full-speed practice since

spraining the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee Dec. 5. "That's

about all I can say. I can't really put a percentage on it right now."

Legitimate concern or smokescreen for the Chargers?

"I don't really want to put that out there because we have a big game this

week and I don't want to really give out any clues as to what is going on,"

Abraham said.

Abraham, one of the rare game-changing defensive ends in football, is faced

with a dilemma. In the final year of his contract, Abraham has yet to achieve

the big payday in terms of signing bonus that - barring a major injury -

clearly is in his future. Judging from fellow defensive end Shaun Ellis' $15.5

million in guaranteed money, it's the kind of dough that can set up a player

for life.

Although Abraham has been medically cleared, only he can decide whether he

wants to risk further injury. Yesterday, Abraham appeared to be weighing those

concerns against his obligations to the team.

"I want to be on the field, but I have to be smart," Abraham said. "I have

a long career ahead of me and I can't go out there and hurt my knee again.

Right now, I am not planning on having surgery, so I don't want to run out

there too soon and get another injury to this knee and have to get surgery."

Abraham's apprehension was in stark contrast to the certainty that coach

Herman Edwards expressed Monday, when he said of Abraham, "He's going to play

in the football game."

Said Abraham: "We are practicing like I'm going to play."

The most likely scenario is that Bryan Thomas starts and gets the bulk of

the snaps, with Abraham coming in for obvious pass-rushing situations.

"It's a big impact, as long as he's able to come back and be himself,"

Ellis said. "He looked like he was moving pretty good, but I don't know what

he's going to do. If he played, it'd be big for us."

Though Thomas did a nice job in four starts for Abraham down the stretch,

he does not attract double-teams or cause changes in protection schemes the way

Abraham does. Ellis does not receive nearly as much attention as he does when

Abraham is out.

"Obviously, we get more big plays from him when he's back in," linebacker

Jonathan Vilma said.

Ratcheting up the pressure on the quarterback certainly would ease the

lumps that the Jets' secondary endured last week, when the Rams' Marc Bulger

torched them for 450 yards passing.

"We've got to be able to get pressure," safety Jon McGraw said.

But the Chargers have allowed only 20 sacks all season despite having two

rookies on the offensive line - center Nick Hardwick and right tackle Shane

Olivea of Cedarhurst. Quarterback Drew Brees gets rid of the ball quickly, but

pressure was a factor in the four interceptions he threw in his last four


Coordinator Donnie Henderson would much rather call the defensive plays

with No. 94 on the field.

"I talked to Donnie and he's cool," Abraham said. "He said, 'Do what you've

got to do.' Everybody wants me to play, so I can't be mad at that. If I can

play, I'll play."


Jets at Chargers

8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 7

Radio: WABC (770), WEPN (1050), WADO (1280), WRIV (1390)


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