Preseason Injuries Nothing New

The recent injuries to Michael Vick, Chad Pennington and, to a lesser extent, Washington's Brandon Noble have brought the subject of preseason injuries to the forefront of discussions in the media and among fans. It's certainly not a new development. Star players are lost for the season due to injuries before the games even begin to count. In their history, the Redskins have suffered some staggering losses prior to the start of the games that count.

Some early blows were suffered not on the practice field or in exhibition play, but behind the wheel. Going into camp at Occidental College in California, prior to the 1956 season, the Redskins were optimistic about their immediate future. In 1955 they had posted their first winning record in a decade and had one of the game's rising starts in offensive back Vic Janowicz.

Janowicz was a versatile performer. He would tote the ball over the goal line after either taking a handoff or catching a pass and then line up and kick the extra point. In 1955 he scored a team-record 88 points, the second-best individual output in the NFL that year.

His promising career would abruptly be cut short. Driving near the training site, Janowicz got into an accident and was thrown from the car. He was in a coma for several days and the injuries he sustained would not allow him to resume playing football.

You would think that the Janowicz tragedy would make the other members of the team drive more carefully. This was not the case. Later that week, quarterback Al Dorow got into an accident himself. Fortunately, Dorow's injuries were not nearly as severe as those suffered by Janowicz and he missed only a few regular season games.

The preseason injury bug bit an established star in 1971. Redskins fans were wondering how the mix of longtime quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and new coach George Allen would work out. Jurgensen, of course, liked to throw downfield and do so often. To Allen, the purpose of offense was not to lose any games so that his defense and special teams could win them.

The clash of styles, however, would not occur until later seasons. In the next to last preseason game against Miami, Jurgensen threw an interception to safety Dick Anderson. While trying to make the tackle, he broke a bone in his left shoulder. Jurgensen started the season on injured reserve. He gamely tried to come back later in the season but he only appeared in five games, attempting just 28 passes. Billy Kilmer stepped in for Jurgensen and led the team to its first playoff appearance in 25 yards. The seeds for an ongoing quarterback controversy were planted.

Washington offensive linemen have suffered more than their share of serious preseason injuries over the years. Stalwarts such as Terry Hermeling (1974), Paul Laaveg (1976), Walt Sweeney (also 1976), and Mark May (1990) had seasons wiped out by injury before they ever began. The worst such injury to an offensive lineman happened prior to the 1993 season.

The team was somewhere in between transition and turmoil. Joe Gibbs had retired during the offseason and a number of veteran players from the 1991 Super Bowl champs had either departed or were going to be in greatly diminished roles.

Left offensive tackle Jim Lachey, a Pro Bowl performer in 1990 and 1991, was still around and was supposed to be one of the anchors for a new generation of Hogs. His picture adorned the cover of the team's 1993 press guide. That turned out to be a worse jinx than Sports Illustrated ever dished out.

Early in the second quarter of the preseason opener against the Browns, Lachey suffered a knee injury. It did not seem to be very serious at first. The Post's game story the next day made mention of cracked ribs suffered by defensive linemen Tim Johnson and Jason Buck, but there was no mention of Lachey.

In the following days, Lachey's injury was diagnosed as a hyperextension and he appeared to be in jeopardy of missing just the next exhibition game. Eight days after the game, however, an MRI revealed a torn knee ligament. Reconstructive surgery ended Lachey's season.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com


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