Wittman to retire if ligaments damaged Blast's hot scorer says 1-year rehabilitation too long

February 28, 1991|By Bill Free

Tim Wittman said yesterday that if there is ligament damage in his sore left knee, his 10-year career with the Baltimore Blast would be over.

"If it's ligaments, I'll call it quits," said Wittman who already has come back three times from knee surgery. "That would put me out for a year, and I'm not going to wait around that long to finish my career. I'll be done for good."

Wittman, one of the hottest point producers in the Major Soccer League in the past 20 games (21 goals, 20 assists), has said he plans to play this season and one more and then retire, possibly to an MSL coaching position.

Wittman, 27, will undergo arthroscopic surgery Monday on the knee that mysteriously started bothering him Feb. 10 against Kansas City in a 7-6 victory over the Comets at the Baltimore Arena. Wittman scored three goals in that game.

"No one kicked me, I didn't get hit on it or anything like that," said Wittman. "If I knew how it happened, I would know more what to expect going into surgery. The only thing I can think of is the wear and tear on the artificial turf for 10 years has taken its toll."

Wittman, honored yesterday as the Blast's Most Valuable Player for the third quarter of the season, said that if there is cartilage damage to the knee, he would come back as soon as possible this season (two to six weeks) and test the knee that has severely limited his movement the past five games.

"If I can't play to my best ability, I'll retire," said Wittman. "No one else will have to decide for me. I want to go out while I'm on top. I don't want to be like Sugar Ray Leonard or a Muhammad Ali or certain players in the league [MSL] who played too long. It was sad to see a Steve Zungul [MSL's all-time scoring leader] sitting on the bench and having guys [on other teams] hoping he would play because they would have a better chance to win. I mean, Zungul was the once the best player

Wittman, he had to worry "about guys running by me for the first time in my career" in the last five games.

"I shouldn't have played in San Diego or Tacoma," he said.

Blast coach Kenny Cooper said: "It was sad to see Timmy come off the field and lay down along the bench in Tacoma. He is such a competitor but he just couldn't go. This is a major setback for the team."

Wittman said he hopes the knee will allow him to play one more year because "I want to accomplish a few things."

One of those goals is becoming Baltimore's all-time scoring leader. Wittman (198 goals, 106 assists for 304 points) needs just 26 points to pass Stan "The Magician" Stamenkovic (130 goals, 199 assists for 329).

"But if I have to stop playing now, I'll be all right," said Wittman. "I'm not just playing for financial reasons. I have other things can do." Wittman and his fiancee, Cindy Thurlow own a hair salon in Mount Washington.

Wittman would like to coach in the MSL, preferably Baltimore.

"I'm not looking to take anybody's place," said Wittman. "I'd just like to get into some kind of coaching and help developmental players. I know what it takes to be a professional soccer player. I'd like to help young players like Chris Simon [Blast rookie] and David Vaudreuil [second-year Blast player who missed most of his rookie season due to knee surgery]. It would be nice to turn around and be in the Baltimore organization somewhere."

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