- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Midway through his standout career at the University of Michigan, offensive tackle Jon Jansen realized his durability had become his identity.

“The Rock” went on to start a school-record 50 straight games for the Wolverines. And if not for one missed play as an NFL rookie in 1999, he would have played every down in his first five seasons with the Washington Redskins.

Now Jansen is coming to grips with a new identity, that of a player sidelined for an entire season. After rupturing his left Achilles’ tendon in Monday night’s 20-17 preseason win over the Denver Broncos, Jansen must relinquish the aura of invincibility he held since “probably somewhere in my second or third year in Michigan.”

“I had been fortunate not to be hurt,” Jansen said yesterday at Redskin Park, “and now I’ve got to start over.”

While the Redskins made plans to plug in Kenyatta Jones at right tackle, Jansen prepared for surgery today with Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. Rehabilitation will require at least four months, including about six weeks in which his foot is immobilized in a cast.

Jansen ended up not having an MRI because team doctors were all but certain the tendon was fully torn. However, he continues to wait for information as to where the tendon was ruptured — at the top, where it attaches to muscle; in the middle, where it would snap in two; or at the bottom, where it attaches to bone.

None of the scenarios is any more worrisome than the others, Jansen said. Each involves a return to jogging “at about the three-month mark” and, he hopes, a swift return in the following weeks.

“Then it’s just a matter of how long it takes to get your strength back,” Jansen said. “I’ve always been a quick mender. [I] don’t swell very much, and there wasn’t much swelling today. I’m shooting for the four-month mark.”

Coming to grips with Jansen’s injury wasn’t easy for the team or for him. Coach Joe Gibbs conceded yesterday that, before the injury, he hadn’t even given much thought to right tackle.

“I knew his history,” Gibbs said. “I guess it just goes to show you in pro sports, anything can happen. When Jon went down, it was a big deal. He’s a leader and a mainstay.”

Jansen, meanwhile, continued to battle his emotions less than 24 hours after hanging his head beneath a towel on the sideline in Canton, Ohio.

“Everybody who knows me, they don’t expect Jon Jansen to be laying on the ground and have to be helped off the field,” Jansen said. “At first, you feel like you let everyone down. Then you realize there was nothing you could do about it. It’s just something I have to deal with, the Redskins have to deal with.”

Jim Lachey, a former Hog who attended Monday’s Hall of Fame Game and stood outside the locker room greeting Gibbs’ old staff afterward, recalled how difficult it was to accept his injury in 1993, the season following Gibbs’ retirement. Lachey blew out his ACL and MCL in the first quarter of the first exhibition that year — and briefly kept playing.

“It was denial at first,” Lachey said. “I didn’t think it was serious until I got home and was like, ‘Hey, my knee’s not supposed to look like that.’ Then you understand that if you play long enough, it happens to everybody. It’s just a tough break.”

That sort of resigned optimism seemed to be settling in for Jansen yesterday. Having accepted the injury and the abrupt end of what he hoped would be his best season yet, Jansen was focused on smaller, still attainable accomplishments.

“I’ve always had some aspirations of getting into the coaching business, and this will be a chance for me to look at it from a different perspective and even be involved with whoever is going to be the next tackle,” Jansen said. “I want to be a part of the team. I don’t want to be dead weight.”

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