For Jansen, Being Back Never Felt Better

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By Mike Wise
Friday, August 5, 2005

Bulbs of sweat formed over Jon Jansen's brow the other afternoon. They eventually morphed into a slow-moving current down his forehead. Some of the perspiration forked around his temples; some of it followed a crevice between his nose and cheeks. Every droplet belonging to the 306-pound man finally met up and went over the falls, off the ledge of Jansen's ruddy chin.

"I'm hot, I'm sweaty, and I've got the best job in America," said Joe Gibbs's starting right tackle.

Jansen clutched his helmet firmly in one hand and began trudging up the hill from practice. He labored toward the locker room. He had the proud gait of a cattle rancher who had fed the last of his heifers.

He surveyed the field and his teammates dispersing around him. "It's just good to be back out here," Jansen said.

What's that saying, "You don't know what you have till it's gone"? That is football to Jon Jansen.

A year ago, the franchise's ironman -- a player who had missed one snap in his NFL career -- went down in excruciating pain. It was one of those freak accidents in the first exhibition game. Jansen planted his left leg with about five minutes left in the first quarter on a short pass play. His left Achilles' tendon was ruptured and his season was over.

An anemic Washington offense was suddenly without its best run-blocker. The corn-fed man from Michigan, who had not missed a game since high school, underwent months of rehabilitation until the foot was deemed ready for contact again. For three months he laid around his home in Purcellville and did almost nothing, including eat.

Jansen's weight dropped to 280 pounds -- 26 pounds lighter than the 306 he carried when he stepped on the scales earlier this week. "After all that sitting, it was just basically time to go back to work," Jansen said. "That's about all I can say without getting myself in hot water with my wife."

He said his wife, Martha, "did a great job in getting me out of the house and stopping me from feeling sorry for myself."

Jansen still has not seen the videotape of the injury, refusing to witness his agony. "It's like the last interception I threw against Philadelphia last year," quipped Patrick Ramsey, his best friend and the team's starting quarterback. "Some things you just don't need to see again."

"It's something that happened, and I'm moving on," Jansen said. "No need to dwell on it at this point."

Looking back, the injury was an omen for Gibbs's return to Washington. Without one of its best run-blockers, the offense nose-dived. By the fourth game, Clinton Portis lashed out at its predictability, saying the Cleveland Browns knew what play the Redskins would run. Wide receivers Laveranues Coles grew so disenchanted with his role that he eventually forced the team to trade him.

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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