Pierre Garcon has torn toe ligament, hopes to avoid surgery


Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon catches a pass during warm-ups against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 30. (Ricky Carioti/TWP)

Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon said Thursday that he has a tear in the plantar plate of his right foot and is hoping to avoid surgery to repair it, but won’t know for a couple of weeks whether extended rest will allow the injury to heal on its own.

Garcon, signed by Washington in the spring to a five-year, $42.5 million contract to be the team’s leading pass-catcher, was examined by foot specialist Robert Anderson in Charlotte on Wednesday.

Garcon said his status remains unchanged, and that he doesn’t know when he will return. But people with knowledge of the situation say that Garcon will remain sidelined at least until after Washington’s Week 10 bye.

Sprinters who have suffered the same injury, which is near Garcon’s second toe, have recovered in six to eight weeks. But because the injury is not certain to heal, even with an extended layoff, Garcon left the door open for surgery after the season if necessary.

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan most recently described Garcon’s injury as an inflamed capsule in the second toe of his right foot. Technically known as a plantar plate tear, the injury involves a partially torn ligament inside the capsule of the toe, where the toe arches. That prevents the receiver from substantially pushing off the toe.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, an offensive lineman could probably play with the same injury, but a sprinter or receiver uses that ligament when pushing off and making cuts.

Garcon said Anderson’s findings confirmed that team doctors had diagnosed the injury correctly, but Garcon said he had remained optimistic that his condition would heal quickly.

Anderson “just specified that it was a plantar plate tear,” Garcon said Thursday in the Redskins locker room. “We knew, but we didn’t really want to believe it. We wanted to think it was something minor that could be fixed within the five or six weeks that I was out.”

Garcon made an immediate impact in the Redskins’ season opener, recording four catches for 109 yards — including an 88-yard touchdown — in the first eight plays of the game. But on the scoring catch-and-run, he felt a pop in the toe.

Garcon revealed Wednesday that wasn’t the first time the toe had bothered him, however.

“It was overuse. That’s the best term. I felt it early in the year. I felt it early in the preseason. But, you know, I just kept playing,” Garcon said. “I’m kind of stubborn. So I just keep playing, fighting through whatever. But it was just a toe injury so I was like, ‘it’ll be all right. Just ice it. Just keep playing.’ And then in New Orleans I felt a pop. And that’s when things are serious, when you feel a pop.”

Garcon left and didn’t return to the game against the Saints, then missed the next two contests. Originally, Garcon and the Redskins believed he couldn’t further injure himself by playing on the bad toe.

Garcon said he decided on his own to play in the next two games. But he recorded only four catches for 44 yards in those two outings combined. Garcon warmed up for the Week 6 game against Minnesota. But after watching the receiver continue to struggle to run effectively or change directions, Shanahan told Garcon not to play.

Garcon admitted that he was more hindrance than help.

“I can play with it. But, you know, I can’t really run full speed. I can’t really, you know, explode, be fast . . . because it’s that painful,” he said. “I could keep going. I can keep trying. But, you know, I’m out there to make plays, not to just, you know, distract the guys or do whatever. But if coach wants me to go out there, I’m more than willing to do it.”

The Redskins, Garcon and his agent then decided that the receiver needed another MRI exam, and afterward, Shanahan said Garcon would be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

“Pierre made the decision to come back [in Week 4] and wasn’t forced by the team. It was his direct decision,” Garcon’s agent, Brad Cicala, said when reached by phone Thursday. “The team made the decision to hold him out of the Minnesota game, and in my opinion, it was the decision that was made in Pierre’s best interest, both in the short-term and long-term. I commend the coaching staff and training staff on this issue because the goal for Pierre and the Washington Redskins is to get back on the field and try to help the Redskins go to the playoffs.”

This week, Shanahan sent Garcon to be examined by Anderson, who also repaired tight end Fred Davis’s ruptured left Achilles’ tendon on Wednesday.

Anderson told Garcon that he could choose full rest, or that Anderson could surgically repair the tendon. But surgery would mean the end of the receiver’s 2012 season. Garcon still may require surgery. But for now, he said, “We don’t really want to think about that at all.”

Garcon said he believes taking a patient approach gives him the best chance to return to the field this season. He is aware, however, that by playing on the toe before the ligament heals, he could risk dislocating it, which could mean more problems.

“I don’t want to be on the sideline. It is frustrating. But you’ve just got to think about what’s best for it and what’s best for your future, because this is long term,” Garcon said. “You don’t want to make it worse just for one season. As bad as I want to be out there, it’s a tough decision we’ve got to deal with.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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