- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

Washington Redskins wide receiver Laveranues Coles revealed yesterday that he has been playing for the last 12 weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot that could require offseason surgery.

The injury, which Coles said he first noticed following the Redskins’ third game, previously was described as “turf toe.” He has played in pain since, although still ranking among the NFC leaders in receptions (69) and yards (1,023), but in recent weeks the injury has hampered him more.

“I’ve dealt with it. It’s no big issue, it’s no excuse,” Coles said. “It’s just something I’ve played with. I was ready to handle it once the season’s over with. I’m pretty sure it’s going to heal fine.”

Coles said he will need to wear a cast on his right foot for one to two months after the season ends. A determination will be made then whether he needs surgery.

“Hopefully, it will heal,” he said. “If not, then I’m going to be required to have surgery.”

The revelation of the fracture near Coles’ right big toe comes after his worst game, when he was held without a catch Sunday by the Dallas Cowboys. Though he concedes that the pain has made it difficult to run routes, Coles refuses to blame his injury for any part of his performance.

“I tried to keep it under wraps because I feel as a football player there should be no excuses,” he said. “When I walk off the field, regardless of if anything’s hurting, I feel a certain way about myself. If I was man enough to step out there, I’m man enough to take the responsibility that comes with it. That’s the way I dealt with it all year. I really didn’t want to make a big issue out of it.”

One of the Redskins’ prize offseason acquisitions, Coles looked like he was worth every penny of his team-record $13million signing bonus when he cracked the 100-yard mark in each of his first three games. But since getting hurt in the Sept.21 win over the New York Giants, Coles has reached triple digits just once (Nov.9 vs. Seattle) and in recent weeks has been held out of practice regularly.

Coles did not practice yesterday, but coach Steve Spurrier said he’ll continue to play as long as he wants to.

“Laveranues has said, ‘I’m ready to go — I feel fine,’” Spurrier said. “Obviously, I think it’s bothering him a little bit more than it was earlier. If it looks like it is, we’ll put somebody else in there.”

Already one of the most respected players inside the Redskins locker room for his work ethic, Coles has impressed teammates with his ability to play with the injury this season.

“He’s a fighter, and he’s playing through it,” said running back Chad Morton, who came over from the New York Jets with Coles.

Said quarterback Patrick Ramsey, whose season ended prematurely because of a broken foot. “There’s no selfishness in him. I think that’s evident with what he’s given us this year, even with the injury.”

Despite the accolades he has received for his performance this season, Coles has not been totally satisfied. He set career highs with 89 receptions and 1,264 yards for the Jets last year, and was determined to improve those marks with the Redskins.

More frustrating to Coles than the individual numbers, though, was the fact that he could not propel Washington to its first playoff berth in four years.

“I didn’t have the same numbers that I had last year,” he said. “I had a better year last year. You always want to come somewhere and improve. Then I wasn’t capable of helping the team win as many games as I thought I would be able to. So from that standpoint, I’m not happy with my season.”

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