With his strained left Achilles’ tendon failing to respond to treatment, LaRon Landry will finish the year on the injured reserve list for a second consecutive season, casting further doubt on the strong safety’s future with the Washington Redskins.
Landry consulted with foot and ankle specialist Robert Anderson, Coach Mike Shanahan said Thursday, and the doctor recommended that the fifth-year pro have surgery. Shanahan said he expected Landry would seek the opinion of other doctors before making a final decision; he said he wasn’t certain what the procedure would entail.
“We’ve got to find out exactly how serious it is. I don’t think we will know until he operates. It is not torn, but it’s been quite sore,” Shanahan said.
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said rookie DeJon Gomes will start at strong safety for the season’s final three games. Gomes, 22, a fifth-round draft pick out of Nebraska, has played in 12 of the Redskins’ 13 games with two starts.
The sixth overall pick of the 2007 draft, Landry, 27, was having a career year last season before it was derailed by the problematic Achilles’ tendon injury.
Landry racked up 85 tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in nine games a year ago before the tendon — which he originally strained in Week 6 — became too painful for him to walk freely. He hoped that alternative medicine treatments – shockwave therapy, platelet-rich plasma treatments and an offseason of rest — would enable him to rebound with a strong 2011 season before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
But the injury flared again after Landry played seven consecutive games this fall. This season, Landry has 48tackles, 11 / 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
“Last year, in the first nine games that he played, he should’ve been player of the year — I think he would’ve been defensive player of the year,” Shanahan said. “But he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Hopefully he can get it fixed.”
In the days following Washington’s loss at Miami on Nov. 13, the 6-foot, 227-pound safety couldn’t practice, and Shanahan held him out of Washington’s game against Dallas the following weekend. Landry believed he could be effective despite having not practiced.
He returned to action Nov. 27 at Seattle, but strained a groin muscle in that game. Landry has missed the last two games, and this week marked the third consecutive stretch of practices that he has been sidelined.
When the Redskins practiced Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, Landry stood on the sidelines in tennis shoes, black sweatpants and a black hoodie with his jersey over it.
Landry did not speak with reporters after practice on Thursday.
“Obviously, he was a guy we were relying on to be back and be like he played the beginning of last year,” Haslett said. “I thought the first nine games, before he got hurt, he was as good a player in the NFL. Obviously, injuries have taken a toll on him. It’s just numerous injuries. It’s not just one. There all pulls here, a pull here, and Achilles’. So obviously it’s taken a toll on him.”
It’s definitely not the way Landry hoped the final year of his rookie contract would play out. Now, instead of increasing his earning potential with strong performances, Landry finds himself heading toward free agency with a shaky body of work, in need of surgery and facing uncertainty of whether the Redskins or another team will take a risk on him.
“I think everybody will be taking a look at it,” Shanahan said. “Not just us, saying, ‘Hey, let’s look at the surgery, let’s take a look at what Dr. Anderson says, how long the rehab will be, how long it will take to come back full-speed.’ I think everybody will make decisions then.”
Because of his uncertain future, Landry had spent the last month wrestling with the decision of how to approach the final weeks of the season. The dilemma: Should he try to play through his injuries and prove to team officials his dedication and his value? Or keep himself sidelined to avoid further injury?
“I know the injury stuff has frustrated him. He wants to play,” said linebacker London Fletcher, who like Landry is set to be a free agent this offseason. Unlike Landry, Fletcher hasn’t missed a game all season and leads the NFL in tackles. “He’s as competitive a player as we have on our football team. He’s just been dealing with one nagging injury after another. A lot of things have been aggravating for him. You feel for a guy, especially this being a big year for him in his career.”
Said safeties coach Steve Jackson, who has coached Landry his entire professional career: “I think it’s been more frustrating than anything. Not only is it a contract year, but after the season he started off with last year, he wanted to surpass that. There were a lot of expectations he put on himself, and unfortunately with the injuries, he hasn’t been able to achieve his goals.”
Landry at times tried to talk his way onto the field during games, but in the last three weeks realized that he faced a greater risk by playing. As most recently as last week, Landry said in an interview that he believed that his best option may have been to give up on trying to further prove himself this season, pursuing a less-lucrative contract this offseason, and attempting to reestablish himself next season.
“I’m even considering coming here and signing another one-year” contract, Landry said. “Even if I have to come here and sign a one-year just to solidify myself and not have to worry about trying to get the big-dollar [contract this year], I’d do that. Because I admit, this season has been kind of shaky.
“But this would let me come back. . . and show what I’m really capable of doing, which is the only right thing to do in my mind. But I haven’t talked to my agent about this yet. Every time I get ready to call him, I just get frustrated, and then I end up not being able to talk” about his situation.