Jets D-Line A Hurting Unit

While the Vikings are hoping for improved play from a talented defensive line Friday night, the Jets are in the midst of tackling numerous questions along their defensive line.

Dewayne Robertson left the Jets' training camp last week for a brief trip to Alabama.

The Jets only hope he and the rest of their defensive line don't go South once the season starts.

Robertson went to Birmingham to seek a second opinion from noted sports physician Dr. James Andrews. Robertson has been troubled by an aching left knee and wanted a second opinion on whether or not it would require surgery. The Jets' doctors already had told him no.

That's the same thing Andrews told him, but the lingering physical problem could be yet another roadblock for a team already trying to replace departed nose tackle Jason Ferguson, and also dealing with the holdout of standout defensive end John Abraham.

Robertson went to visit Andrews on Aug. 9, and returned two days later and talked with Herman Edwards. The coach said at the time that it would be a game-time decision as to whether Robertson played in the preseason opener against Detroit on Aug. 12, but the 6-1, 317-pound third-year tackle sat out in street clothes.

Surprisingly, the Jets indicated they had knowledge of Robertson's condition before they traded up to draft him with the fourth overall pick in 2003.

"It's a chronic problem that Dewayne had before he got here," Edwards said. "A little of it has to do with arthritis because it's bone rubbing against bone.

"It's just for him to feel we are advising him correctly," Edwards added, referring to Robertson's seeking a second opinion. "We'll come up with a solution to try to help him come along and (protect) him from discomfort. He will probably have some discomfort."

When Robertson returned to the Jets' training facility at Hofstra University, he had an early-morning chat with Edwards, according to the coach.

"He's fine," Edwards said later, adding that the visit to Andrews "helped him mentally. It's always good to get a second opinion. We had a good conversation this morning and he's ready to go. He was here around 7 a.m. He came (into the weight room) and we started talking. He got on the machine and started doing his cardio."

That's all well and good, but the Jets need Robertson to get off the treadmill and back on the field. Fourth-year pro Alan Harper, who has yet to make an impact with the Jets, started in Robertson's place against Detroit and didn't record a tackle. However, Edwards said in a conference call the next day that he was pleased with Harper's performance, as well as that of James Reed and third-round draft choice Sione Pouha, who are competing for the neighboring nose-guard position.

Robertson wasn't available to reporters the day he returned, nor did he talk in the locker room after Friday's game. It remains to be seen if the University of Kentucky product can overcome both the physical and mental strain of dealing with a chronic, nagging injury. Robertson rebounded from a difficult rookie season, in which he was thrust immediately into the lineup because of Josh Evans' eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. To become a viable force in his second season.

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