Zeigler underwent knee surgery immediately at the conclusion of the 2001
season and spent all winter, spring and summer rehabilitating. It didn't
properly heal, and the total extent of his participation last season
amounted to two games, when he filled in at guard for the then injured
(and now departed) starting right guard, Jason Whittle.
In point of fact, he was only on the active roster for four games, the
two he played and two others when he was active but did not participate.
Now, with Whittle and starting right tackle Mike Rosenthal departed via
the Unrestricted Free Agent route (Whittle to Tampa Bay, Rosenthal to
Minnesota), a healthy Zeigler would provide a strong sense of comfort to
the offensive coaches and quarterback Kerry Collins.
But the implications are that Zeigler isn't ready, may not even want to
work hard enough to get ready, and might in fact be released at any
"I hope he comes back," says starting left tackle Luke Petitgout. "We
need a guy like him. He was a veteran and an anchor and I hope he works
hard enough to be able to recapture what he once had."
It is becoming unlikely, and even offensive line coach Jim McNally, the
"genius" who bears the nickname "Mouse," sounds less certain of the
return of the seven-year, 6-5, 305-pound veteran.
"You know, everybody was surprised and pleased with the way young Chris
(Bober, 6-5, 320) took over and played the center spot," he said. "In
fact, he is so smart and works so hard he directed the traffic like a
veteran. Kerry (quarterback Collins) loves him and feels great
confidence in him."
Which is kind of too bad, in a way. Bober's first job was as a backup
tackle, and with Rosenthal gone, he would be the perfect candidate to
return to that old station and nail it down. But with Zeigler a
question, Bober will stay at center, opening the job to others who are
far from being household names.
"Nobody knew what we knew about our kids last year," said McNally, who
had to replace right guard Ron Stone, left guard Glenn Parker, left
tackle Lomas Brown and Zeigler, and in a sense he had another "new
player" in Petitgout, who shifted from right to left tackle.
"I saw them work together all during the offseason," McNally added. "I
knew how smart they were, how dedicated they were and how hard they
worked, and nobody can coach that into a kid."
Now he starts over again, with the only certainties Petitgout, Bober and
left guard Rich Seubert.
At tackle, he will choose from Ian Allen, Barrett Brooks, the monstrous
Char-ron Dorsey (6-6, 375) and Jeffrey Hatch, the team's third-round
draft pick from Penn last year who missed the entire season because of
To replace Whittle, he'll look to Sean O'Connor, Tam Hopkins, Omar Smith
and Brooks. At the moment, Hopkins is the front-runner, having played in
all 16 games (with one start).
McNally, who has coached the O-line in the NFL for 23 years, has a
"genius" reputation and proved it last year. Now he has to start all
over again, just when he thought he had built a strong, young line that
would withstand the ravages of time and free agency.