Boulware to delay surgery

Raven aims to play in Feb. 6 Pro Bowl

January 12, 2000|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

After saying he would skip his second Pro Bowl by opting for long-anticipated shoulder surgery soon after the regular season, Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware has reversed course by deciding to have surgery after playing in the NFL's all-star game next month.

Boulware is scheduled to have his shoulder repaired Feb. 8, two days after the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, according to Ravens head trainer Bill Tessendorf. Boulware has been named as a starter in the game.

His decision to delay the procedure did not exactly thrill organization members, who wonder if Boulware will have recovered fully when training camp opens in July.

Tessendorf said Boulware would need about five months of rehabilitation. Tessendorf added that, by waiting until next month to address the dislocated shoulder problem that has bothered him since 1998, Boulware risks not being ready for camp and the preseason.

"We would like to have Peter ready to participate in camp, and this pushes the training-camp envelope," Tessendorf said. "The longer the [surgery] delay, and any setback [during rehabilitation] becomes a bit of a problem. We would love for him to do it sooner."

Boulware, who did not return phone calls yesterday, also has elected to go outside of the organization to fix his shoulder. The surgery, during which his damaged rotator cuff will be repaired, will be performed by Dr. Richard Hawkins in Vail, Colo.

Hawkins is one of the Denver Broncos' physicians. Boulware sought an opinion last year from Hawkins, who advised Boulware that he could play the 1999 season with his shoulder injury. Boulware, who had reinjured his shoulder during a non-contact drill at the end of the team's final June minicamp, wore a restrictive harness while playing in all 16 games this season.

Boulware finished second on the team with 10 sacks, all of which he collected in the first 11 games before fading over the season's final month. He ended up 11th on the team with 42 tackles. He also led the team with three forced fumbles. By season's end, he had surrendered most of his playing time to backup Cornell Brown.

"Certainly, we would have liked to have had the surgery done by now," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "What difference does a month [of delay] make? Come minicamp, come training camp, we'll find out. Naturally, from our standpoint, every day of rehab you get is a bonus.

"Evidently, Peter and the medical people he talked with are comfortable with the delay. The bottom line is it's his body. This is not a big thing. It's an honor to go to the Pro Bowl, and I can understand him wanting to participate. It's Pete's call."

In the end, the decision to play in Hawaii is not Boulware's call. Upon his arrival the week before the game, Boulware must pass a physical. The league will send medical staff members from the two losing teams in the Jan. 23conference championship games to examine and treat players.

"If [Boulware] fails it, he comes back and we move his surgery date up," Tessendorf said. "He played the year with [the injured shoulder]. I think he's going to have to demonstrate to them out there that he can do it."

Tessendorf said Boulware has continued to keep his shoulder strong through weightlifting, which should aid his recovery. After his surgery, Boulware's shoulder will be immobilized for about three weeks. That will be followed by about three weeks of "limited motion," before his rehabilitation intensifies.

Billick said the Ravens also would keep a close eye on Boulware throughout his rehabilitation, which means Boulware will be staying in Baltimore to work. Last year, when he went through non-surgical rehabilitation, Boulware spent most of the off-season working out at home in Columbia, S.C., or at Florida State, his alma mater.

"By putting it on this time frame, it makes the rehab [schedule] very specific," Billick said. "There will be no ambiguity about what the rehab is and where he'll do it. None."

As the team's top draft pick in 1997, Boulware converted from defensive end and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He injured his shoulder in the second game of the 1998 season, did not miss a start, recorded 8 1/2 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl as a "need" player.

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