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Penn senior safety Kevin Stefanski, shown in Friday's scrimmage against Widener, tore cartilage in his knee during practice Tuesday and will undergo surgery today. He is expected to miss two games. [Caroline New /DP File Photo]

The Penn football team will have to begin its season without another defensive starter.

Senior safety Kevin Stefanski suffered cartilage damage in his right knee at practice on Tuesday and will undergo arthroscopic surgery at Presbyterian Hospital today.

He is expected to miss at least the first two games of the season and is targeting Oct. 4, against Dartmouth, as his return.

"We're shooting for a couple of weeks," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Hopefully we'll get him back for the Ivy season."

Dartmouth is Penn's first Ivy League game.

"That's the tentative schedule," Stefanski said. "It's all speculation now. I've still got to get cut and see what the doc says."

Stefanski tore the anterior cruciate ligament in that same knee two years ago against Lafayette and missed the whole season. When he dropped into coverage in practice Tuesday, he knew something was wrong and feared the worst.

"I was just jumping, and I felt it give out on me," Stefanski said. "I heard a snap sound -- the same thing I heard when I did my ACL. So that kind of scared me into thinking that it might have been the ACL again."

Stefanski was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday night where an MRI was taken. Then a long night of doubt began.

"I did not sleep much, playing a lot of mental games in my head," Stefanski said. "All the bad thoughts go through your head, but that made it even sweeter when I got the good news [yesterday] morning."

Good news, of course, was a relative term, as Stefanski found out about the cartilage damage. However, he was still elated that the injury would allow him to play most of the season.

"We found out that cartilage popped in his knee and got stuck in his joint," Bagnoli said. "And was causing him a lot of pain."

Stefanski is the second defensive starter that the Quakers have lost this month, as fifth-year senior defensive end Kyle Chaffin quit the team.

For at least the first two games, Bryan Arguello will start in Stefanski's place. The junior appeared in eight games last season, recording two interceptions.

"He's awesome," Stefanski said. "He knows every single call as well as any of us do. But with our defense, we rotate so many guys in and out that nobody's going to miss a step. We just reload and throw other guys out there."

Last season, Stefanski was named honorable mention All-Ivy. In the season opener against Lafayette, he picked off two passes and had 20 tackles on the season. During Friday's scrimmage against Division-III Widener, he returned an interception for a touchdown.

Since his injury two years ago occurred in the first game of the season, Stefanski plans to use a fifth year of eligibility next season.

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