As soon as Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas torpedoed into his lower body Sunday afternoon, sending him head over heels, Jon Jansen knew he was finished playing for the Washington Redskins this season.
The sounds were that freaky, the pain that intense.
“I felt three or four pops, and it was instant pain,” Jansen said yesterday in a conference call. “It was different from when I tore my Achilles [in August 2004]. That didn’t really hurt much at all. This time it was quite painful. It was a little less painful after they reset it on the field. It definitely wasn’t much fun.”
Jansen sustained a fractured fibula and dislocated right ankle joint. He will undergo surgery tomorrow or Thursday and faces a rehabilitation of three to four months, depending on how much ligament damage is discovered. Although the Redskins have not placed him on injured reserve, he likely will not play again this season.
Jansen rarely gets hurt, but when he does, the injuries are serious. He played every game his first five years with the Redskins, but a ruptured left Achilles tendon robbed him of the 2004 season. He had played in all but one game the last two seasons. Now he heads back to rehabilitation, and the Redskins’ offensive line makes another change.
During a third-down passing play early in the second quarter, Jansen was engaged with a Dolphins defender when Thomas rushed up the middle and lunged at quarterback Jason Campbell. While pulling Campbell down, Thomas’ momentum swung him into Jansen.
Dolphins trainer Kevin O’Neill was first on the scene because Jansen was closer to the Miami sideline. The Redskins staff was there seconds later, and Dr. Ray Thal put the ankle back in place before an air cast was placed on the leg.
Because it wasn’t a compound fracture and the bone didn’t break the skin, Jansen has been told to expect a full recovery. He is in the first season of a five-year, $23 million contract.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Jansen said. “I really felt like coming into the season the team was ready to have a great year, and I felt like I had myself as ready as ever and been in the best shape since college.
“I’ve talked to a couple different doctors, and they’ve seen this [injury] quite often and don’t feel there isn’t any reason why I won’t be 100 percent after therapy.”
Jansen said he will be in a cast for six weeks, followed by a walking boot for another six weeks. Then he can begin running.
“I know I’ll be able to bounce back from this,” he said. “I have all the confidence in the world.”
Without Jansen in 2004, the Redskins started Kenyatta Jones before he was released in favor of Ray Brown. The Redskins appear to be in better position this time around. Veteran Todd Wade is expected to get the first shot to start, and rookie Stephon Heyer also could emerge. A team source said the front office had yet to decide what free agents, if any, will be brought in for tryouts but ruled out pursuing a trade for San Francisco 49ers right tackle Kwame Harris, who has lost his starting job to rookie Joe Staley.
Wade has started 86 NFL games but only 10 since the beginning of the 2005 season. Yet he impressed teammates last year with his practice performances and filled in for Jansen in the Week 15 win over the Saints at New Orleans. But almost all of Wade’s experience is at left tackle.
“Maybe I shouldn’t assume [I’ll start], but I’m pretty sure,” Wade said. “I plan on having a really good season. … Moving to the right side is not as different as writing with your other hand, but it’s about training your foot to go in another direction while keeping your balance.”
Heyer replaced Jansen against Miami — the first time he had played right tackle in college or the NFL — but he is expected to be a reserve at both tackle positions.
Jansen will be around to lend advice to both players. He said he plans to be around the team more than in 2004, when he spent part of his rehabilitation at his home in Michigan. He visited Redskin Park yesterday morning and talked with coach Joe Gibbs and safety Pierson Prioleau, whose 2005 season ended in Week 1.
“You feel bad seeing a guy like Jon go down — he’s a leader on this team and an intricate part of the offensive line,” Prioleau said. “I know how he feels after a long offseason of preparation and then to be done after the first game. … It’s going to be a tough rehab, but the team will rally around him, and he’s the kind of guy who will come through it.”