Kenny Cooper said yesterday that he was disappointed that Tim Wittman missed the first day of training camp because of a lower-back injury that "was unrelated to soccer."
The Baltimore Blast coach said Wittman received the injury to the left side of his back "while lifting weights" and added it was "hard to justify to the other players" why Wittman couldn't practice yesterday.
"It's just disappointing that something like this would happen a day or two before training camp opens," said Cooper. "Timmy's one of our top players. You can't take anything away from the fact that he plays hard and works hard to build physical fitness and mental toughness. But Timmy has always done weights, and it seems like he's had a lot of injuries."
According to Cooper, there is a "lot of concern from the ownership and coaching staff" over Wittman's injuries.
Wittman failed his pre-training camp physical yesterday and underwent a bone scan later in the day to determine the exact extent of the injury.
Wittman, coming off his career-best year with 40 goals and 15 assists, reacted to Cooper's comments with shock and dismay.
"I have my own training schedule, which includes lifting weights to improve my strength and agility," said Wittman. "That's why I've lasted 10 damn years in this league. I just don't play soccer. I cross-train. I get excited for the season, and sometimes I even do too much. I'd say my way has been successful. I think I know how to train. I know my body better than someone else does. I know what clicks for me."
Wittman, 27, has played in more games (332) than any other Blast player and is the team's second all-time leading scorer (168 goals, 82 assists for 250 points) . He was named by the fans to the Blast's All-Decade team last season and should pass Stan Stamenkovic (329 points) as the club's all-time leading scorer if he plays two more seasons.
Wittman said the injury resulted from an "honest mistake."
"It came while I was moving a dumbbell over to another area," said Wittman. "I reached down to move it, and I must have pulled a muscle. I think that's all it is. It probably wouldn't have happened if I had been actually lifting weights at the time."
Wittman gave up martial arts at the request of the Blast, and he doesn't lift weights during the season at the team's request.
"I'm an active person, and I'm always doing things to stay in shape to make myself a better player," he said. "Some people use their energy to go out and drink and smoke. This is my way of releasing energy, and it's got to be better for me than partying."
Wittman said he never has given less than 100 percent on the playing field.
"All they have to do is watch me play," said Wittman. "If I'm not giving 100 percent, I hope they sit me down or cut me. That's the way it should be."
Blast midfielder Freddie Thompson said: "Timmy's fit. He lifts weights to get strength and to play better. We're [players] not worried about Timmy missing practice. We know he'll be there giving it his all in game situations."
NOTES: Arbitrator George Nicolau is expected to rule on the Dale Mitchell grievance case today. Mitchell, Baltimore's newly acquired forward, has filed a grievance against the Kansas City Comets, saying the team induced him to sign early in July by promising him "things over and above what were written in the contract" and then traded him to the Blast, which had no knowledge of the oral promises Kansas City made him. Mitchell is asking to be declared a free agent. If he is given free agency, he is expected to sign with the Tacoma Stars. That would void the trade that sent Carl Valentine to Kansas City and bring Valentine back to the Blast. . . . Mitchell, Domenic Mobilio, Joey Barger and Bruce Savage missed camp yesterday. Mitchell and Mobilio are in Vancouver, British Columbia.