Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coughlin: Novak a 'Backup' Leg Injury Unrelated to Parting, Coach Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coughlin: Novak a 'Backup' Leg Injury Unrelated to Parting, Coach Says

Article excerpt

Byline: Rich Tucker, Times-Union staff writer

Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin testified yesterday that he never believed Jeff Novak was a skilled enough football player to win a permanent starting position.

"I did not think he was a power player," Coughlin said.

The veteran coach's testimony contradicted arguments by Novak's lawyers that the former Jaguars offensive lineman had been poised to win a starting position going into the 1998 season until Stephen Lucie's negligent care cut his career short.

Novak claims Lucie's decision to drain fluid from a leg bruise Novak sustained during a preseason practice exposed him to infection and handicapped his ability to compete effectively for a new contract with the Jaguars.

He is suing the doctor for malpractice, seeking millions in lost wages he might have earned as a professional football player.

Lucie maintains his decision to drain Novak's hematoma was appropriate and left him with no permanent injury.

Coughlin's statements yesterday flew in the face of earlier testimony from several current and former Jaguars players, who said Novak's skill, versatility and intelligence made him the top choice to replace Michael Cheever as starting center after Cheever was injured early in the 1998 preseason.

But Coughlin testified he viewed Novak as a "versatile backup" and had always intended other players would replace Cheever.

And Coughlin said his decision not to renew Novak's contract after the 1998 season had little if anything to do with the leg injury Novak sustained in preseason.

Instead, Coughlin said a back injury Novak suffered in November 1998 that led to him being placed on the injured reserve for the rest of the season played a much larger role in his decision not to renew Novak's contract.

"He was a backup player with an injury," Coughlin said. …

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