Offensive line leaves its mark ... on Collins

Defensive end Michael Strahan hears the question all the time.

"Everybody (asks), 'What's wrong with Kerry Collins?' Kerry Collins is getting the snot beat out of him," Strahan said yesterday. "That's what's wrong with him. There's not a quarterback in the league" who performs well under constant duress.

At least Collins has grown accustomed to it. Despite being sacked six times Sunday by the Bills, Collins lost his cool only once, after a third-quarter play when he chastised left tackle Jeff Roehl, who started for injured Luke Petitgout (back).

Collins let loose "a couple expletives" during the exchange.

"The bad part was, I don't think it was his guy who hit me," Collins said with a chuckle. "It just came from his general direction."

Nearly indestructible, Collins has started 66 consecutive games.

"Regardless of how many times I've been hit, I feel great," he said. "I've never felt better at this point in the season, really."

The Giants, 4-8, averaged 1.8 yards per rush in Sunday's 24-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills, and Collins was hit on three occasions in two seconds or less, by coach Jim Fassel's estimation. Those hits have a cumulative effect.

"His time clock's gone," Fassel said. "He has no sense of timing or rhythm anymore."

Petitgout is a question mark for Sunday's game against the Redskins, and left guard Wayne Lucier (knee) is out. Center Scott Peters replaced Lucier against the Bills. Against Washington, Roehl could move to guard with Jeff Hatch moving to left tackle.

No matter the line's situation, Fassel will not use backup QB Jesse Palmer just because the season is lost. Collins said giving way to Palmer would "be hard for me to accept."

"This is my job, it's what I do, it's my livelihood, and I feel like this is my team in good and bad," Collins said. "I don't ever want to sit on the sidelines and watch. But especially in a situation like this, I want to be the guy out there without these guys."

The offensive line problems were foreseen, and Fassel said he was "concerned" in the off-season about a lack of depth there -- a situation that has handcuffed the offense most of the season. He also thought RG Jason Whittle (Buccaneers) and RT Mike Rosenthal (Vikings), both free agents, would re-sign. They did not.

"I really truly thought that we would get Jason and Rosey back, I really did," Fassel said. "I thought they would both come back because I knew how badly they wanted to be here and that is the starting point. ... I thought we really had a chance to (keep them) right up until (they signed elsewhere)."

Later, on his weekly radio spot on WFAN, Fassel said his belief was based on what both players told him and was not intended as a veiled shot at the negotiating efforts of GM Ernie Accorsi.

Whittle was offered significantly more money by Tampa Bay. Rosenthal, who didn't sign with Minnesota until April, had told several teammates he was seeking a change of scenery.

Fassel took exception with the notion that his team has given up.

"I've watched every player on every play until the bitter end (of Sunday's loss)," he said. "I don't believe that at all. We were playing hard."