Twelve seasons with the New York Giants have taught nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker Harry Carson not to get too surprised when something happens. It usually does.
Having that attitude makes it easier to adjust, and that's what the Giants must do Monday night when they meet the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins without seven-time All-Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor.Taylor will miss at least the first four games of the season while undergoing rehabilitation for substance abuse.
"I wasn't upset but I was surprised about the thing with L.T.," Carson said as he prepared for the nationally televised matchup of the past two Super Bowl champs. "I have been conditioned to know that something is going to happen every season.
"I have seen illnesses and I have seen people die. Of course losing L.T. is something of a blow, but we'll play well in his absence."
The Giants have said they will use a number of defenses to compensate for Taylor, but coach Bill Parcells said the team's basic defensive strategy will not change much.
"We are not looking at anything as a challenge," Giants linebacker Carl Banks said of Taylor's absence. "There is nothing we have to prove because someone is out. We have to go out and play football and play with the cards dealt. I think we can be successful with it."
The one thing Banks said the Giants cannot do is to try to make up for Taylor's absence by trying to play like him.
The job of replacing Taylor in the 3-4 will probably be filled by Andy Headen and Byron Hunt. Headen will get most of the work in the passing situations, while Hunt is better against the run.
"You never know what might happen," Headen said. "We can go in a positive way or a negative way. The team is going to be fired up because this is Washington."
The Washington-Giants series has always been one of the better rivalries in the NFC East, especially the last few years as Dallas struggled. The Redskins won both meetings last year, although the first encounter was against a miserable Giants replacement team during the strike.
Washington won the second game 23-19 in the nation's capital after New York blew leads of 16-0 and 19-3. Ironically, New York played the game without Taylor, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
It's a fact not lost on Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
"I think their linebackers are so good that they are one of the exceptional teams in the league that could sustain the loss of a real good player like that," he said.
While the Giants will be without Taylor, the game will mark the regular-season return of offensive tackle Karl Nelson, who missed all of last season while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's disease.
"I guess this will be (special) because I didn't play last year," Nelson said. "It's been a while since I have played in a regular-season game. It will be a big night for me for sure."
The game will be televised locally by KTVX (Channel 4) at 6 p.m. MDT.