Howard catching up with a lot of support Father, friends help him through injury

August 16, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

When Desmond Howard was depressed about his groin injury early in training camp, he got a lot of emotional support from his father, J. D.

"He would call just to see how my groin was doing. That's all he would want to know. That's reassuring. He wanted to make sure I was doing OK. Still smiling so to speak. That's very good when you've got a father like that in your corner," Howard said Saturday night after the Washington Redskins' 19-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Howard, who caught five passes for 87 yards -- including a diving 39-yard catch at the 1-yard line that made all the highlight shows -- was one of the few to stand out for the Redskins, who committed seven turnovers.

Howard's gratitude for his father's support was his first admission of how much his inability to play was bothering him.

"That's my man. Most of my friends say we're more like brothers than father-son," he said. "We have that type of relationship. I don't think people understand how much that really helps an athlete."

That's why Howard is feeling so much empathy for Michael Jordan, whose father recently was murdered, even though he doesn't know the Chicago Bulls superstar.

"When I heard the news about Michael Jordan's dad, it was devastating to me. I know how much my dad means to me, especially after going through what I went through this summer with the groin pull. Knowing that people are in your corner like that and then to lose him. . . . It's devastating."

For the first four weeks of camp, Howard was matter-of-fact about the injury he suffered in the off-season. He said he'd aggravated it once by trying to come back too soon, and he simply had to let it heal.

The reality was somewhat different.

"It definitely wasn't easy," he said. "I had to do some soul searching, surround myself with positive people, and they were telling me I was going to do it. It was going to be my time when I was healthy. They told me, 'You have the talent.'

"You keep that around you, not just positive people who will give you fake criticism by just telling you, 'Yeah, you're going to. . . ' but [people] giving you constructive criticism, but still being very optimistic about the outlook of things, and not just pessimistic people. My support group helped me a lot in that regard."

Besides his parents, he said the support group included "people I knew before I came here," although he didn't identify them.

There was a lot of pressure on Howard to perform because he was the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner and the Redskins gave up two No. 1 picks to draft him.

Until he suffered a shoulder separation in the season finale last year, Howard said, he had no history of injuries.

"It was the first time I ever had an injury. Ask anybody who scouted me. They go through your records when they draft you. I never missed a practice or a game over an injury," he said.

But that injury, followed by the groin pull, raised some red flags in the Redskins organization.

He says things would have been different if he had caught 50 passes instead of three in his rookie year.

"I think it probably would have been more relaxed," he said. "They'd know what I could really do and wouldn't be trying to push you out there to see what type of talent you have, where you can play at this level. I would think you would have basically proved yourself if I had those types of numbers last year."

While the Redskins were waiting for him to prove himself, Howard said he didn't lose his self-confidence.

"I had confidence in myself. I think my biggest asset is self-motivation and self-determination. As long as I can keep the faith, I think everything will be OK."

On his diving catch in the second period, he said: "He [Mark Rypien] lobbed it up there and he put enough air under it so I could run and get it. I lost sight of it for a minute, looked back up, saw it and grabbed it. It was real close to the ground."

"He's a special person," Rypien said.

"That's why we drafted him," coach Richie Petitbon said.

Howard said an upbeat attitude helped him make the catch.

"If I'd been doubting myself all along, I probably wouldn't have been able to make that catch," he said.

NOTES: Petitbon gave the players today off and will resume the final week of camp tomorrow. Camp is scheduled to close Friday, but he may move the closing date up a day. . . . OT Jim Lachey will get a magnetic resonance imaging test on his ailing knee this week. . . . The Redskins played without four defensive starters (DL Tim Johnson, DL Shane Collins, S Brad Edwards and LB Kurt Gouveia), but none of their injuries are serious. . . . The Redskins have a punting duel on their hands. Kelly Goodburn hit his two punts well, and rookie Ed Bunn kicked two poor ones and one good one. Bunn opened camp the heavy favorite, but Petitbon said of his inconsistency: "I don't know if we can live with that." . . . Petitbon wasn't happy with the team's seven turnovers. "You can't win playing the way we did. We have a lot of work to do."

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