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Suter's injury may hurt Terps

October 02, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has been known to build up to showstoppers.

His first two Terrapins teams have started slowly and have grown into the role of one of the dominant teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. This year's team seems to be no different.

Friedgen did it again during his weekly press conference, but this time in a manner of trying to slide one by without notice. The coach dropped the bomb when he was giving his weekly injury update, naming a list of four players with started with oft-injured tailback Bruce Perry.

That only lit the fuse.

"...And Steve Suter. He has a knee problem which might have to have his cartilage removed. We sat him out (Monday) and will rest him (Tuesday) He'll practice (today). He might have to have it removed."

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Suter has become one of the most explosive players the Terps have. He is a receiver with breakaway speed, but has become almost a folk hero for his kick returning abilities, which have accounted for six punt return touchdowns in the last 18 games he's played.

With Perry also falling on the questionable list, Suter's injury could hamper Maryland's quick scoring ability in two facets of the game.

"He had it examined (Monday) and hopefully he can play with it," Friedgen said. "Maybe he can go with it this week (against Clemson) and have it operated on after that."

The cartilage is the cushion between the bones in the knee joint. Other Maryland players, like lineman C.J. Feldheim, have had it removed and have been able to return in as little as two weeks. However, Friedgen warned that recovery time depends on the individual. For Suter, it would be his fourth procedure on his knees, the second on his left one.

Suter injured his knee during the 37-13 win over Eastern Michigan and continued to play.

"He got hurt during the fumbled punt (in the second quarter) and then played with it the whole game," Friedgen said. "Then he started to get swelling. If the swelling calms down, he will play. If not, we will have to evaluate it."

If anything, Suter's reputation alone is a huge presence in Maryland's lineup. Just the chance that the junior may return a kick has opponents kicking defensively and away from him.

"If you look at every one of Steve's punt returns, he gets the first guy to miss and then he gets blocks," Friedgen said. "He has great peripheral vision and then he turns on the speed."

Suter's injury is magnified as Maryland prepares to play Clemson on Saturday. The Tigers are a team built on speed, something Maryland loses without Suter and Perry.

If and when Suter is out of action, Maryland will turn to JoJo Walker to return kicks, like it did in the season opener with Northern Illinois when Suter was nursing an ankle injury, and to Jafar Williams, Dan Melendez and Drew Weatherly to fill in at receiver.

With or without Suter, the Terps have to go on and will still have to find a way to defeat Clemson and the rest of the ACC opponents.

"Steve is a good player, but we just have to deal with the injuries like we have been doing," guard C.J. Brooks said.

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