Crawford to undergo second surgery |

Crawford to undergo second surgery

David Gignilliat, Tribune Staff Writer

As his Miami Dolphin teammates prepare for Saturday’s wild-card matchup against the Buffalo Bills, all linebacker Mike Crawford can do is sit home, watch television and try to get healthy.

A mysterious abdominal injury continues to stunt the NFL career of Crawford, a 1992 Whittell High School graduate and the Dolphins’ sixth-round draft choice in 1997. Surgery in early August corrected some of his condition, but created a different set of problems. Despite extensive physical therapy in the months that followed, Crawford believes surgery is inevitable and has set Jan. 11 as a preliminary date for his second operation in six months.

“If I can get healthy, I’m going to be a star in the league – a star,” said Crawford by phone Monday from his home in Davie, Fla. “I’ve just got to get healthy. I’ve done some big-time research on the topic, and hopefully [the surgery] will work out. I mean, [football] is my life.”

The 6-foot-1, 255-pound Crawford recently returned from a trip to Vancouver, where he received assistance from physical therapists who helped Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal recover from a similar injury. Though the trip produced some promising results, Crawford said he doubts it will prevent another surgery.

The injury has been an albatross for Crawford ever since he joined the Dolphins in 1997. The former University of Nevada star played nearly all last season in pain as team doctors and trainers struggled to pinpoint the source of Crawford’s malady. Pregame painkillers allowed him to compete in seven games in 1997, but as a “slower and weaker” player, Crawford said.

“My first year I was hurt and I had to play with the pain,” Crawford said. “I’ve never really had the chance to prove myself out on the field injury-free.”

Surgery in August attempted to repair Crawford’s abdominal muscle tear, but seemed to make matters only worse. Doctors at a Coral Gables, Fla. hospital inserted a mesh object into Crawford’s abdominal area in an effort to support the torn muscle’s regrowth. While the surgery did alleviate some of his original pain, it has not kept Crawford from missing the entire 1998 regular season. The mesh apparatus, which Crawford likened to “having a screen door wrapped around your abdomen,” will be removed during the Jan. 11 surgery.

The abdominal injury has restricted Crawford’s livelihood, limiting him mostly to sedentary activities like watching television and going to movies. Family and friends have made life easier, though the timetable for Crawford’s recovery from his August surgery has long since passed.

Crawford was originally scheduled to return to Miami’s active roster for an Oct. 25 game against New England, but his chronic pain continued to plague the road to recovery. Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson could have placed Crawford on waivers or traded him to another team, but instead decided to stick it out with the young linebacker.

“The whole Dolphins organization has been really helpful,” said Crawford, who estimates a six-week recovery time for his pending surgery. Crawford said fellow Miami linebackers Zack Thomas and Larry Izzo “have been really supportive”; and NFL Players’ Association president – and Miami Dolphin defensive end – Trace Armstrong has kept Crawford notified of his options during recovery.

If all goes well, Crawford will be in game shape well before Dolphins’ mini-camp begins next summer. In the meantime, being part of a playoff team – but not really – has been tough on Crawford.

“It kills me watching the games sometimes,” Crawford said. “What kills me more is being in South Florida, playing for the Dolphins and having people on the street recognize me. They ask, ‘So you’re on the Dolphins. What position?’ It’s hard to answer those questions when you’re hurt. I want to be in a position to help the team.”

Crawford’s resolve to return to the gridiron is so strong that he has not even pondered retirement or another career.

“I haven’t thought much about it,” Crawford said. “I’m set on getting healthy and I’m set on being a star in this league.”

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