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Giants’ Jack Golden Recovering

August 13, 2000

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ While Jack Golden may never escape the embarrassment of tackling a teammate and causing a last-second fumble that cost the New York Giants a preseason victory, at least the linebacker can laugh about it now.

He has no choice.

When you’re a professional athlete and you make a dumb play, you’re teammates have sympathy for about 24 hours. Then you become fair game.

As replays of Golden’s tackle of cornerback Fred Lewis on Friday night were shown to the team on Sunday, the want-to-be comics let the free agent from Oklahoma State have it.

``Solid tackle.″

``Good hit.″

``Forced fumble.″

``Almost a recovery.″

``You’ll get an ESPY.″

All Golden said he could do was sit there and laugh.

``Right after the game, guys came up to me and said in a few weeks you’ll be able to laugh about it,″ Golden said Sunday before the Giants returned to practice. ``A few weeks haven’t come yet. It’s been a day and everybody is cracking jokes.″

The improbable play that gave Jacksonville a 16-13 win over the Giants on Friday might have gone down as one of the most bizarre endings in NFL history had it taken place in a regular-season game instead of the preseason.

In Giants’ history, ``The Tackle″ might have been as infamous as ``The Fumble″ by Joe Pisarcik in 1978.

Trailing 13-9 with 20 seconds to play and the ball at the New York 22 on Friday night, Jaguars quarterback Jonathan Quinn threw a pass that was intercepted by Lewis, a free agent cornerback, near the goal line.

Lewis hesitated for a split second and then decided to return the ball.

Determined to keep Lewis in the end zone, Golden tackled him, jarring the ball loose. Jacksonville tight end Brandon Christenson fell on it for a game-winning touchdown.

``I have been thinking about a lot this weekend,″ Golden said. ``In life, sometimes people try to do the right thing and it always doesn’t work out. This was a mistake I made in professional football and hopefully I’ll learn from it and I won’t make this mistake again.″

Talking about the incident now, Golden has a smile on his face. He wasn’t in such a good mood after it happened in the nationally televised game.

After a brief talk with coach Jim Fassel on the sidelines, Golden slammed his helmet to the turf.

Several veterans talked to him immediately after the game, but the guy who really helped him was Lyle West. The second-year safety reminded Golden what he did in the final preseason game against Baltimore last year.

West, a sixth-round draft pick, misplayed a last-second desperation pass by the Ravens into a touchdown giving Baltimore a 28-24 win.

The blunder did not cost West a spot on the Giants roster.

``I know how he felt and I just felt it would be a great thing to tell him not to worry too much,″ West said. ``Obviously he made a mistake, but I told him just to get over it as fast as possible. People will make jokes, but it’s not funny when it’s you.″

Golden had other supporters, too.

By the time the team returned from Jacksonville to its training camp at the University at Albany early Saturday morning, Golden had 17 telephone messages. Five were from his agent, Steve Mandell, and 10 were from his mother, Mona Lisa. There were a couple of others from friends.

The messages were basically the same: ``Keep your head up, you’re doing OK.″

With sixth-round draft choice Dhani Jones out for the year with a knee injury, Golden has a good shot at making the Giants this year.

``Hopefully, I’ll be able to make bigger plays in the course of the season that will kind of downplay this situation,″ he added.

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