- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2000

Cory Raymer's slim hopes of returning this season are gone.

The Washington Redskins' center, sidelined since the final week of training camp with a severely sprained right knee, will undergo season-ending surgery today to reconstruct a torn ACL. His six-month rehabilitation should allow him to be ready for next spring's minicamp.

Raymer, 27, initially suffered Grade II sprains of his ACL and MCL, as well as meniscus damage, when a teammate fell on his knee during practice Aug. 14. Redskins trainers allowed Raymer the chance to rehabilitate without surgery, but he re-injured the joint during a routine agility drill in practice Thursday.

The second injury initially was believed to affect the meniscus, which would have left open the possibility of playing this season. Instead, Dr. James Andrews found in Birmingham, Ala., yesterday that Raymer had fully torn the ACL. Today Andrews will determine the extent of Raymer's MCL and meniscus injuries and repair them when he performs the ACL surgery.

"When you look back on it, I'm glad for Cory's sake that we attempted to come back," Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer said. "He did so well through that rehab period… . I was really excited about the fact that it looked like he could come back. But it was misleading."

The end of Raymer's season leaves center Mark Fischer less room for error. Fischer, 26, who had not made an NFL snap before this season, is trying not to think about his status as the starting center for the Redskins' $100 million payroll. Instead he's trying to correct his tendency to make mistakes.

"Every game I have two bad, bad plays … where I just regret not taking advantage of that play," Fischer said. "And then I have four or five other ones where I [may] have got the job done, [but] it just looked ugly. I can live with the four or five ugly plays. I need to eliminate the bad, bad plays."

Fischer's biggest mistakes last week were stepping on the foot of quarterback Brad Johnson, leading to a sack on Washington's first snap, and playing too high on a play against New York Giants defensive tackle Keith Hamilton and yielding a key tackle. The week before, Fischer caused an 18-yard sack by snapping the ball over Johnson's head.

"He can play better," offensive line coach Russ Grimm said. "It's just a consistency factor. He does some things extremely well. Every now and then something [bad] pops in there. Those are the things you've got to eliminate. But that happens to everybody."

Grimm has been impressed with Fischer's performance on reach blocks and his ability to make the calls that set up the line. But Grimm would like to see Fischer get a lower center of gravity.

The Redskins also have Jay Leeuwenburg to play center. Leeuwenburg started for right guard Tre Johnson in Week 1 and has practiced in place of injured left guard Keith Sims the past few weeks, but he also gets practice snaps at center. Leeuwenburg's versatility will allow the Redskins to pursue a center or guard in free agency if they want to shore up the line.

Westbrook upbeat

Wide receiver Michael Westbrook, also sidelined for the season with a knee injury, spoke about his slow emotional recovery from the torn ACL and torn meniscus he suffered Sept. 10 at Detroit.

"I was at home with nobody around," said Westbrook, who will undergo surgery Oct. 10 in Vail, Colo. "No girlfriend, no family, no friends, no nothing. I was really down. I just wanted to be by myself."

Westbrook, 28 and coming off his first 1,000-yard season, spent his time alone reading books and watching movies. He finally emerged from his despondency a week and a half ago. He's now confident he will return for 2001.

"I'm not hopeful I know I'll be back," he said. "There's no looking back. I'm coming back, and I'm going to be even better than I was before."

Conway evaluated

Former Redskins kicker Brett Conway underwent an MRI on Tuesday for his strained quadriceps, the injury that landed him on injured reserve last week. Conway, 25, said the exam revealed blood and scar tissue on the muscle.

This second opinion is crucial as the Redskins attempt to reach an injury settlement with Conway and sever his ties to the team. Conway was replaced by Michael Husted, 30, who missed an extra point and a 30-yard field goal Sunday.

The Redskins have worked out 24-year-old Jaret Holmes in case Husted cannot regain the form that made him Tampa Bay's all-time leading scorer (502 points, 1993-98). But Washington's shuffling of kickers is starting to build up against the salary cap.

Conway's $472,000 salary counts until he reaches a settlement or rehabilitates his injury. When Husted signed, $97,000 of his salary was guaranteed, as required for a vested veteran. So if the Redskins released Husted next week and signed Holmes, they would have a $700,000 cap figure for a kicker with no NFL experience.

Health watch

Starting fullback Larry Centers (hyperextended elbow) and tight end James Jenkins (pinched neck nerve) practiced and are probable against Tampa Bay. Sims (Achilles' tendinitis) did not practice. He also is listed as probable Sunday, but his status for practice remains day-to-day.

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