Muscle tear to sideline UM's Perry 4-8 weeks

Star tailback's new injury latest obstacle for Terps

College Football

August 23, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland star tailback Bruce Perry has a third-degree tear of his left groin muscle and is expected to miss the first month of the season, perhaps not returning until the end of October.

Perry, who declined to comment yesterday, was hurt in warm-ups for Tuesday afternoon's scrimmage, which he then sat out. Tests performed Wednesday revealed the injury, which will not require surgery but generally needs four to eight weeks to heal. An operation likely would have sidelined Perry for the year.

"The good news is that he did not tear the tendon off the bone, and it looks like he will be able to come back at some point this year," Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen said. "If there is some silver lining, I think that's it."

The muscle plays a large role in explosiveness, power and ability to change directions - all attributes in the 1,242-yard season that earned the junior from Philadelphia the Atlantic Coast Conference's Offensive Player of the Year honor in 2001. The early part of Perry's rehabilitation will consist simply of rest.

Friedgen and some Terps players said that Perry, who went from an unknown in last year's fall camp to the nation's leading rusher after five weeks, was in good spirits despite the bad news.

"It's devastating, but he's trying to stress the positive and work hard to get back as soon as he can," senior offensive tackle Todd Wike said. "We're bummed out, but we can't dwell on it."

Perry's injury, coming off of an abdominal pull that hampered him from late 2001 into this month, is yet another obstacle Maryland has faced since returning from the Orange Bowl in January.

So far in 2002, Perry missed spring practice because of the injury, as did E.J. Henderson with a back injury. The team's leading candidate to start at quarterback during the spring, Chris Kelley, severely injured his right knee on the last practice before summer.

This, combined with the academic dismissals of four players, stands in contrast to the good breaks Maryland enjoyed on the way to a 10-2 record and an ACC title last season. Cornerback Tony Okanlawon (undisclosed medical illness) was the only player to miss significant time for the Terps during that campaign.

Yet, teammates indicated that they're comfortable with moving on without Perry if they must.

"We've just got to move on. If someone gets hurt, someone's got to pick up the slack," junior offensive guard Lamar Bryant said.

The two tailbacks most likely to emerge are former Wilde Lake star Mario Merrills, a freshman who sat out last year, and sophomore Jason Crawford, a favorite to start last year who has made a rapid climb from the bottom of the depth chart this month.

Friedgen indicated that he was comfortable with either or both as a replacement for Perry; Merrills is a smaller, shiftier back, and Crawford is a bigger back the coach normally prefers.

"Right now, we just have to step up and play hard," Merrills said. "Jason and I are the contenders. It's our time right now, and we have to take advantage right now."

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