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Bell out with a sports hernia

PITTSBURGH -- In his fourth NFL season, Kendrell Bell is
reliving his sophomore jinx.

The playmaking inside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers
will miss at least the next two games with what is now being called
a sports hernia.

Bell, who's missed all four games this season, returned to
practice last week after having made what coach Bill Cowher called
"significant progress." But Bell awoke the next day with more
pain in his groin and was scratched from last Sunday's game against
Cincinnati.

After receiving a second opinion Tuesday, it was determined Bell
would undergo laparoscopic surgery Wednesday.

"We're looking at him being out definitely the next couple
weeks," Cowher said. "And then we have the bye week and we'll see
where he is at that point. That's the time frame."

A sports hernia is different from a true hernia: A sports hernia
is a pulled groin muscle that worsens over time and affects the
abdominal wall. The normal recovery period is six to eight weeks.

Bell missed most of the spring coaching sessions with the
injury, but thought he had recovered well enough to practice at
training camp. He played the first preseason game, but was replaced
by Larry Foote because of a shoulder injury.

Bell missed the rest of the preseason and the groin injury
resurfaced during the practice week before the opener against the
Oakland Raiders.

"We've tried to use a very conservative approach with him by
shutting him down and trying to bring him back slowly," Cowher
said. "We just feel at this point that this is the best thing to
do for his standpoint and also for ours."

The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001, Bell returned too
early from a preseason ankle injury in 2002 and struggled through
the season. He finished second on the team in tackles last year,
but has already missed as many games this season as he did in 2002.

Bell has been replaced by Foote, a third-year player out of
Michigan. Foote started three games in 2002 and was credited with
19 tackles that year. This year, Foote is second on the team with
28 tackles.

Last Sunday against the Bengals, Foote led the Steelers with
nine solo tackles and 11 total tackles. He also tackled quarterback
Carson Palmer for his first career sack, and forced a fumble in the
third quarter to stop a Bengals drive at the Pittsburgh 32.

"Larry's played very well. He's played very solid," Cowher
said. "You never want to lose a player, but if it's going to
happen you'd like to have it in the preseason so you can have
groups start to work with one another because you still have to
develop that continuity."

The Steelers (3-1) host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.