Wittman, Cooper are back at odds again

October 15, 1990|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

The health of Blast defender/forward Tim Wittman is again a major worry of coach Kenny Cooper.

Last night, Cooper said Wittman, who has been hampered by a muscle strain in his lower back, has undergone further tests that have revealed a degenerative disk.

"The doctors are saying it will be two or three weeks at the earliest before he can play," said Cooper, who had hoped to have Wittman healthy for the season opener Saturday in Wichita. "I don't know what this means, until I have all the facts."

But Cooper did not make his final cut yesterday as planned. The Blast has to cut one player from its roster by Wednesday to reach the 18-player limit.

On the positive side, both Dale Mitchell, the high-scoring forward acquired in a trade this summer with Kansas City, and forward Domenic Mobilio, the Blast's leading scorer last season, have arrived. Both will be in camp today.

Asked if Wittman's injury had a bearing on his decision not to make a cut, Cooper was elusive.

"I am not prepared at this point to say," he said. "I need to get all the facts and talk to the doctors."

But Cooper pointed out Wittman showed up for his physical the first day of camp with an "unrelated" injury.

"As it stands right now, he has failed the physical," Cooper said. "He has had a subsequent physical and didn't pass that. Unfortunately, he came to camp in that condition."

The Major Soccer League does allow a team to place a player on an injured/disabled list, but the player must then miss five games. Another player can be signed, in the injured player's absence, to a 10-day contract. That 10-day deal can be renewed for 10 more days, after which the player must be added to the roster or dismissed.

But the salaries of both the injured player and the 10-day signee are counted against the MSL's salary cap of $630,000, which the Blast has been struggling to meet for the last three weeks.

Another MSL rule that could be playing a part in the Blast's thinking is the one that says a team is responsible for a player's full salary if he is on the roster after the sixth game of the regular season.

Wittman initially injured his back in September moving a dumbbell in his home the day before he was to report to camp.

But after an X-ray, the injury was treated as a muscle strain, and the Blast All-Star began feeling better. He returned to practice for several days early this month, before aggravating his back during an optional practice last week.

"The last time I practiced, I might have done something more to it," Wittman said last night. "But it's an old injury. A degenerative disk doesn't happen overnight. My back has hurt after games for years. But it always gets better.

"And it was getting better this time. I was OK, until I practiced, and did something again."

Wittman, 27, said he is not worried about his future, yet.

"They have to find out what's going on," Wittman said of Cooper's stated uneasiness. "I understand that. That's business. But I'm part of the business, so I just want them to let me know what they're thinking.

"If the Blast doesn't want me, just tell me. The frustrating part is not knowing what people are thinking. I don't want any games. I play 52 games on the field during the season and I don't need any off the field."

Wittman said he will go to his therapy session today and hopes to know exactly what management is thinking later in the day.

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