By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Right tackle Jon Jansen will undergo surgery to repair his fractured fibula and dislocated right ankle this week, an injury the Washington Redskins expect to effectively end his season. Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday he has not decided whether veteran Todd Wade or undrafted rookie Stephon Heyer will take Jansen's spot Monday night in Philadelphia.
Jansen, a second-round draft pick in 1999 and the longest-serving player on the roster, was hurt early in the second quarter of the Redskins' season-opening 16-13 victory Sunday, when Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas fell on his legs. The severity of the injury was immediately apparent, Jansen said, and excruciatingly painful.
Although doctors reset the ankle on the field, the extent of the ligament damage will not be known until surgery, which will take place tomorrow or Thursday. Jansen's ankle was twisted in the wrong direction after the injury.
Jansen, 31, started 80 straight games to begin his career, then suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon rupture in the 2004 preseason opener.
He played every game in 2005 despite breaking both thumbs, and played through several lingering injuries in 2006, eventually missing one game, Dec. 17 at New Orleans, because of a calf strain.
"I felt three or four pops and it was instant pain," Jansen said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. "That was really what was different. When I tore my Achilles' it really didn't hurt much at all, and this time it was quite painful. It was a little less painful after they reset [the ankle] on the field there. It definitely wasn't something I would wish on anybody. It wasn't much fun, but it's over and I'm looking forward to surgery and getting that behind me."
Jansen was writhing on the field for several minutes, as doctors and athletic trainers attended to him. Team physician Ray Thal reset the ankle and Jansen was able to muster a fist pump as he was carted off.
Jansen spoke to a few teammates from home Sunday night. "He definitely wasn't happy with the situation, obviously," center Casey Rabach said, "but he understood that's football and stuff like that happens."
Gibbs said the injury is similar to the broken leg and high ankle sprain guard Randy Thomas suffered in 2005, and the prospects of a full recovery look good. "It's just one of those things that can happen," Gibbs said. "You hate it."
Jansen believes he will be ready to resume playing in roughly four months. He will spend six weeks in a cast and on crutches, after which he will wear a walking boot and should be able to put some weight on the ankle.
Within 12 weeks after surgery, he should be cleared to run and after three to four months, he should be able to train fully.
Surgery could reveal more extensive ligament damage, which would affect his recovery, and Jansen said he was unsure if or when the Redskins would make the decision to put him on the injured-reserve list, freeing up a roster spot but making him ineligible to play again this season.
"It's frustrating because it's another lost year, and it's a year where I really felt the Redskins are going to take a big step forward and I really felt like I was in great shape," Jansen said. "I was healed up from all the nagging injuries I had the last couple of years and I was going to have a big year myself. It's frustrating in that regard."
Heyer, who played college football at Maryland, is raw, but did well Sunday given his abrupt entrance and lack of experience. He also filled in for injured left tackle Chris Samuels in the preseason. Wade has been a proven NFL tackle when healthy, and received a two-year, $6 million contract this offseason for precisely this situation. Wade said he believes he will take over for Jansen after getting "a nod" from Gibbs and associate coach-offense Al Saunders. Gibbs said only that Wade "will play a big role for us."
"It's just a matter of us kind of seeing what's best for the team," Gibbs said.
Wade, 30, whose career was derailed by a serious knee injury before signing with Washington last September, has started 86 games and started all 16 for Miami as a rookie in 2000 after being drafted 53rd overall. Wade (6 feet 8, 314 pounds) earned praise from his teammates for his work in practice last season, as well as his performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15.
"They know I can play tackle at a very good level," Wade said. "It's time for me to step up and help the team."
Heyer, 23, was not considered a prospect by most NFL teams but has fared well. Gibbs said Heyer was activated over Wade on Sunday because he expected Samuels to need a spell at left tackle -- where Heyer played in the preseason -- and he performed above expectations when Jansen was injured.
"He's played excellent football for a guy thrown into this situation," Gibbs said.
Gibbs also said that, should the team put Jansen on injured reserve, it would not necessarily sign an offensive lineman for that roster spot given the versatility of some linemen and possible needs at other positions.