Second-year wide receiver Jerome Mathis, who in his first season with the Houston Texans earned a Pro Bowl spot as a return man, likely will miss the first month of the 2006 campaign because of a foot injury that will require Friday surgery.
Following the surgery, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, Mathis will require about four months of rehabilitation. If there are no complications in his recovery, the Texans hope Mathis will be able to return to the field by early October. He will be off his feet for at least a month following the operation.
Mathis first experienced pain in his left foot during the week of Pro Bowl practices. When the problem persisted following four months of rest and treatment, the team conducted a battery of tests that revealed a stress fracture and mandated the surgery.
A fourth-round draft choice in 2005, Mathis had only five receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown last season. But his performance as a kickoff return specialist was electrifying at times. His 28.6-yard average on 54 returns ranked second-best in the league, and the former Hampton standout was the only player in the NFL to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.
He had a league-high seven kickoff runbacks of 40 yards or more. Mathis wasn't nearly as explosive on punt returns, averaging 5.7 yards on 12 attempts.
The one downside to Mathis' rookie performance was a hamstring injury that sidelined him for four games. He was also involved in an offseason motorcycle accident in which he sustained injuries to both wrists and hands. It is believed that the stress fracture in his left foot was not a result of that accident.
As was the case with the former staff, the new Houston coaches are hopeful that in time, Mathis, who was one of the fastest players in the 2005 draft, can develop into a viable wide receiver. But for all his ability as a return man, and his dynamic speed, Mathis' receiving skills are very raw, and the rehabilitation he now faces will reduce the amount of work he gets at the position.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.