Blast midfielder Tim Wittman has a degenerative disk and is expected to miss at least the first three games of the season, Baltimore Blast coach Kenny Cooper said last night.
Cooper said that a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test revealed the disk problem, and team doctors Kenneth Spence and Joseph Ciotola have advised Wittman to undergo two to three weeks of rehabilitation before he can practice.
That means Wittman will not be able to start practice until after the third game of the season -- the home opener Oct. 27 at the Baltimore Arena.
"It's a major disappointment and a major setback for the team," Cooper said. "Timmy failed his physical for the second time last Thursday, and, like in all sports, a player's contract is based on passing the physical. I don't know what we're going to do as far as our roster is concerned right now. We have to have it finalized by Wednesday. There is no injured reserve to put Timmy on.
"It's a big loss for us, but Timmy's health comes first."
Wittman was more optimistic than Cooper was last night.
"I think I could be ready for the third game of the season," Wittman said. "I've had this disk problem for about eight years now, but it never showed up until I took the MRI. They never had any reason to look at my back this closely until I strained it. A disk problem like this doesn't just happen overnight. I would play in games last year where my back might hurt, but once I got loosened up it was OK."
Wittman, coming off a career-best season of 40 goals and 15 assists, has missed all of the Blast's preseason training camp and four preseason games with what was thought to be a lower back strain from a weightlifting accident two days before camp opened.
In a brighter note for the Blast, Cooper said he met with striker Dale Mitchell last night and that Mitchell was ready to start practice today.
Cooper also said Domenic Mobilio was in town and would join Mitchell at practice today. It will be the first training session for Mitchell and Mobilio, who recently have completed outdoor play with the Vancouver 86ers.