UM's Perry might miss opener, or even more, with groin injury

Friedgen: Running back has `pretty significant tear'

College Football

August 22, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland tailback Bruce Perry probably will be unavailable for next weekend's season opener and possibly a portion of the season as well with a "pretty significant" groin injury, Terps football coach Ralph Friedgen said.

When asked yesterday if Perry was out for the Aug. 31 Notre Dame game in East Rutherford, N.J., Friedgen said, "I'm going to wait until after the test, but I would say probably so.

"If it's what we think it is, it's a question of whether he's ready for the season or for the middle of the season, from what the doctors are telling me."

Perry, who declined comment yesterday, was scheduled to undergo an X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging yesterday, but preliminary examinations indicated a significant pull or tear, Friedgen said, that occurred during warmups before a scrimmage on Tuesday afternoon. "Hopefully, the tests prove them wrong, but we'll have to wait and see."

For the previous five practices before Tuesday, the 2001 Offensive Player of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference appeared to be making progress on an abdominal injury he had struggled with late in December.

But after the injury, Perry sat out of practice yesterday and could be seen dragging his leg out toward the team house in Byrd Stadium, not far from where he persisted in a forced motion after a teammate stepped on his foot the day before.

"He's got a pretty significant tear," said Friedgen, when assessing what he thought of the damage to the groin muscle. "You can put your hand there and feel the hole [in the tear]. What we want to find is the extent."

If Perry is sidelined, second-year freshman Mario Merrills and sophomore Jason Crawford would be the top two candidates at that position.

Merrills, a former high school star at Wilde Lake in Columbia, sat atop the depth chart at tailback last week and reportedly ran well in Tuesday's scrimmage. "I look at it as an opportunity," Merrills said.

Crawford, who played in seven games last season as the team's No. 3 tailback, ended the spring as Perry's backup. After a drop in stock caused by his absence at summer workouts, he has moved up steadily since practice began on Aug. 10.

"I was last string and I was determined to move up," said Crawford, who had been considered a favorite to win the starting job last fall. "I just went all out and did the best that I could."

Perry, a fourth-year junior from Philadelphia, is a major reason for anyone touting Maryland's chances for a repeat of last year's success. In his first full season as a starter, he rushed for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"He carried us the first four games last year," said Friedgen, whose offense could be hurt without the 359 receiving yards that Perry also contributed. "Bruce is the best pass-catcher out of the backfield. Recently, he's been running good routes, and he has good hands. I don't think any of the other guys are as good as he is at that stage of the game."

Though Perry played in all 12 games last year, it was hoped that a weight gain from 182 pounds to 202 would make him more resilient. But the abdominal injury that dogged Perry during Orange Bowl practices persisted through spring sessions that he missed, as well as the summer workouts.

Less than 36 hours into fall camp, with Perry missing the team's third practice, Friedgen voiced his frustration with the progress, despite trips to several doctors to diagnose and treat the injury.

"He hasn't done anything since the Orange Bowl, really," Friedgen said at the time. "If [the problem is] still there, I don't know ... we may have to move on. We've got a game coming up in less than three weeks."

Having prepared to move on without Perry, the coach said he feels comfortable with the state of Maryland's running game.

"Any time you lose the player of the year in the conference, it's not going to help you," Friedgen said. "Would I rather have Bruce? Yeah, I'd like to have Bruce. But if I don't have Bruce, I've gotta fly."

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