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Matthews wants to play, continue NFL’s longest current starting streak

October 3, 1997

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ ``The Streak″ won’t be ending Sunday if Tennessee Oiler Bruce Matthews has his way.

He has a sprained knee ligament, which threatens to end his 153-game starting streak _ the NFL’s longest for an active player. But the 15-year offensive lineman has been working out and hopes to start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

``If I can play, I will and I want to play and I’m going to try and play,″ said Matthews, whose starts have all been with the Oilers.

``If all that happens is another matter. I’m going to approach it as I’m going to. Good Lord willing, I’ll be healthy enough to do it and tolerate whatever discomfort I might have. We just have to see.″

Matthews injured his left knee last weekend in the Oilers’ 37-24 loss to Pittsburgh. He heard a pop in the second quarter and tried to keep playing. When he broke the huddle, he said he felt like he had a rubber band on the side of his knee.

The early prognosis was that the streak would end.

``It looked (like) it could be a week, four weeks,″ coach Jeff Fisher said. ``He’s way ahead of schedule. He’s dead set on playing this week right now. I have to list him doubtful ... We have to see how the knee responds to that tomorrow, and just take it a day at a time.″

When Matthews started his streak Nov. 29, 1987, Ronald Reagan was still president and Jacksonville was being touted as a possible new home for the Oilers.

But when he woke up Monday and prepared for a MRI to check his knee, he thought the streak would end.

``Monday I was limping and the whole nine yards, and you couldn’t touch my knee,″ he said. ``Today it feels really good. Still tweaks a little bit.″

Nine-year veteran Erik Norgard replaced Matthews against Pittsburgh and also handled his duties as long snapper. He has been preparing as if he will start, and the Oilers resigned tight end and long snapper James McKeehan earlier this week.

Still, there’s no one like Matthews.

``He’s a real big part of this offense,″ said left tackle Brad Hopkins. ``He’s one of the reasons why it’s able to click.″

If the knee starts swelling or the pain is too much, Matthews nixed any thought of coming in for just one snap.

``I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about it (the streak). Naturally, I’d like to keep it going. If it comes down to going out there for one play and not playing, I’m not going out for one play. The team’s so much bigger than any individual,″ Matthews said.

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