- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Washington Redskins center Cory Raymer will miss at least six weeks because of two partially torn ligaments in his right knee. However, Raymer's long-term status won't be decided for a month, when his knee is re-evaluated.

Center Mark Fischer replaces Raymer in the starting lineup against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday, and guard Jay Leeuwenburg becomes the backup. Rookie guard Ryan Kalich also may be retained as a reserve center.

Coach Norv Turner said he thinks Raymer will return by October.

"Cory's such a mentally tough guy that he has a real chance to come back and play," Turner said. "He's handled it in an upbeat manner, and that gives him a better chance."

The news was better than the Redskins expected yesterday.

Raymer was injured in the final minutes of practice on Monday when Leeuwenburg rolled on top of Raymer in a pileup. Tests Monday night revealed a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments.

Trainer Bubba Tyer said rehabilitation would first center on reducing the swelling of the MCL over the next month. Raymer then would return when he has the strength needed to block. If rehabilitation is unsuccessful, season-ending surgery will be considered.

"You let the MCL heal up, then evaluate," Tyer said. "You hope the knee will tighten up to the point Cory can play with a brace."

Raymer said the knee still doesn't feel bad. He even joked about joining the afternoon practice.

"I wish I could have been out there this morning," Raymer said. "Maybe this afternoon."

Raymer's absence means the Redskins will open the season against Carolina on Sept. 3 with two new starters on the offensive line. Guard Tre Johnson is suspended for one game for hitting an official during a playoff game last season. Guard Jay Leeuwenburg will replace Johnson, though he can also play center. However, Turner said Fischer and Leeuwenburg likely would start rather than Leeuwenburg playing center and rookie Mookie Moore guard.

Fischer has never played a regular-season offensive snap. The fifth-round pick broke his leg shortly before training camp in 1998 and missed his rookie season. He played on special teams during the final six games last year. Fischer said nerves would be his toughest foe.

"I'm trying just to stay calm. I play better when I'm calm. I've got myself under control now. A few years ago it would have been different," Fischer said. "I don't question my physical abilities. I know if I stay calm the physical ability will take care of itself."

Said Raymer: "He just needs to get past being nervous. I don't know if I'm still comfortable. It's the experience thing. If you get beat once, that's fine, if you get beat twice, it's a shame-on-you thing. There's always a new wrinkle that will come up. He's been around enough to know what's going on."

Offensive line coach Russ Grimm said Fischer knows the offense after two seasons of classroom meetings. Most importantly, he calls blocking assignments to linemates before he snaps the ball.

"We're going to find out if he's ready," Grimm said. " 'Fish' knows the system. He knows the calls. The center is the glue upfront. He's the guy that sees both sides of the offensive line and coordinates the protections."

Quarterback Brad Johnson said developing continuity during the snap is paramount to a clean exchange. Being on the same rhythm, snap count and which way the laces should point are just a few ways the pair needs to be in sync. Indeed, Johnson said avoiding jammed fingers when adjusting to a different center is vital.

"It's a natural bond you go through with a center," Johnson said. "It's having confidence with one another and that's what Fish and I will go into. It takes time to get used to each other. I don't think it will be a major, major change. I'm glad this happened with two weeks [before] the first game."

Meanwhile, running back Stephen Davis skipped contact drills, though Turner said he was merely resting him. Running back Chad Dukes (sprained knee) and cornerback David Terrell (hamstring) were sidelined, and receiver Albert Connell was out with a virus. Receiver Derrius Thompson will miss two weeks after surgery for a torn thumb ligament.

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