Reporting David Elfin
Kudos to Grant Paulsen of our staff for beating me to the punch last week and scoring an interview with often-elusive Redskins strong safety LaRon Landry.
Landry was his usual candid self about his obstinate avoidance of surgery on the long-lingering injury to his left Achilles. He explained why he’s continuing to try more exotic and less invasive ways of getting his leg fully healthy for the first time since it was injured in that Monday night debacle against visiting NFC East rival Philadelphia on Nov. 15, 2010.
“It’s my body,” Landry told Paulsen. “I’m going to do what I think is right.”
However, Washington coach Mike Shanahan and the team’s medical staff have believed since Landry was hurt that surgery is the right course of action. Neither side has budged, leaving Landry and the Redskins in an awkward relationship with him eligible for free agency for the first time a month from today.
The sixth overall selection in the 2007 draft out of LSU, Landry is Washington’s hardest hitter and probably its best athlete, but he missed 15 of the past 23 games because of the Achilles and he’s still ailing.
“It’s like a roller coaster,” Landry told Paulsen. “A major surgery is quite hard. You’re changing the structure of your body … as far as range of motion, you might not get the same thing you had before. I don’t want (to lose) that.”
So Landry is paying to have platelet rich plasma therapy, which he sees as a more natural way of healing the Achilles. However, not only did taking that route cost Landry last summer’s training camp and preseason, he was shut down in December after eight games in which he had rarely played like his feared pre-injury self.
While the Redskins were just 5-10 minus Landry the past two seasons, they were only 6-11 with him in the lineup so how much of a difference-maker is he really?
“The way he plays the game with power and speed, it brings something to the table that’s hard to find,” raved defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Shanahan said that Landry was playing at a Defensive Player of the Year level before the original injury but has clearly been irked over his refusal to have the operation. Yet, does Washington really want to have to find a top new strong safety when quarterback, offensive tackle and receiver are such major priorities? On the other hand, can the Redskins really count on Landry being healthy in 2012?
Back in December, Landry, whose upper body is overly-muscled even by NFL standards, told me, “I don’t know if I got too big fast … so I’m going to make some changes in how I train.”
Landry, who has been in Washington longer than all but six teammates, has maintained that he wants to stay put because he loves: playing with 2011 free safety pickup Oshimogho Atgowe; the organization; the fans; and the area.
Given the tenuous status of his Achilles and his absence for nearly half the past two seasons, a one-year, incentive-laden contract makes sense for both Landry and the Redskins. If he returns to form in 2012, they can lock him up long-term or allow him to sign a lucrative deal with another team. And if Landry remains hobbled next season, he’ll have to accept whatever’s offered.
As for this free agent signing period, Landry’s among those who’s not sure what will happen. During that December interview, Landry admitted, “I don’t know how valuable I am to the organization any more.”
We’ll really find out starting a month from today.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.