Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who has had a slow start to the 1995 season, will sit out the New England Patriots' game in Atlanta on Sunday because of the left shoulder he separated Sept. 17 in San Francisco.
Coach Bill Parcells said Tuesday that backup Scott Zolak is preparing to replace Bledsoe.
"I think we'll have to do the best we can," Parcells said.
It will be Zolak's first start for the Patriots since Dec. 13, 1992, at Kansas City.
"I feel I'm ready to go, and I'll do everything extra that I have to do this week to get to the stage where a starter needs to be," said Zolak, in his fifth NFL season.
Bledsoe did not practice last week, and went to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday to be examined by James Andrews, a noted orthopedic specialist. Andrews' recommendation was that Bledsoe not play against the Falcons.
"He, like any other player, is entitled to a second opinion," Parcells said.
There have been conflicting reports over the severity of Bledsoe's injury, and Parcells did little to dispel the confusion Tuesday.
"He has a separated shoulder," Parcells said. "That's all I'm going to discuss. I'm not a doctor. He's much improved, but he's going to have to practice efficiently at some point in time before I play him.
"People get hurt. This is not a season-ending injury, fortunately."
Bledsoe, who does not have a touchdown pass in the Patriots' first three games, was not available Tuesday.
Jay Barker, a rookie from Alabama, is on the team's practice squad, but Parcells said he has not determined who will back up Zolak for the Falcon game.
Pittsburgh Steeler Coach Bill Cowher expressed regret for stuffing an instant photo in NFL referee Gordon McCarter's shirt pocket, but he also didn't apologize.
"My action was not appropriate," Cowher said. "The basic underline is that two wrongs do not make a right. That being the case, I have no further comment on the incident. I have not heard from the league."
Cowher, upset that the Steelers were incorrectly penalized for having 12 men on the field Sunday, confronted McCarter at halftime and jammed a picture showing the defensive alignment into the referee's pocket.
Line judge Ben Montgomery's incorrect count was upheld by McCarter, although two other officials counted only 11. The error allowed Minnesota Viking kicker Fuad Reveiz, who had missed a 48-yard field goal before the penalty, to make a 43-yarder.
"Ben stuck to his guns," McCarter said. "It doesn't go to a vote. In this case we had Ben stand firm on the initial call."
However, TV replays--both the Fox network's and the Steelers' own videos--showed only 11 players. The press box-level picture that Cowher wanted McCarter to see also showed only 11 Steelers.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is investigating both Cowher's actions and Montgomery's incorrect call. In past cases, the NFL has given multigame suspensions to officials who made blatant judgmental errors.
"It's a very unusual and troubling situation," NFL director of communications Greg Aiello said. "The commissioner will review the entire episode . . . the handling of the play by the officials and Bill Cowher."
After the game, Cowher called the incident "a debacle" and "an embarrassment to the league" and said he didn't care if he was fined.