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January 5, 2010

Clausen to undergo surgery Tuesday

Apparently that badly sprained big right toe - or turf toe in football vernacular - was much worse than anyone really knew, except perhaps for the young man who fought through the pain.

According to ESPN.com's Tom Friend, Notre Dame signalcaller Jimmy Clausen, who is entering the NFL draft a year early, will have surgery Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his right big toe. The surgery will sideline Clausen for two-to-three months.

Clausen first suffered the toe injury in the first half of the Michigan State game, but toughed it out and led the Irish to a three-point victory. The following week against Purdue, Clausen started the game but eventually gave way to Dayne Crist. The Irish built a 17-7 lead and looked to be in a position to rest Clausen the rest of the game.

But Notre Dame eventually fell behind, and Clausen was called upon to deliver the game-winning drive, which culminated with a short touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph on fourth down with 24 seconds remaining to gave the Irish a 24-21 victory.

Although the surgery will sideline Clausen indefinitely, he intends to show his wares to pro scouts on the Notre Dame campus in early April. According to the ESPN.com report, foot specialist Mark Myerson of Baltimore will perform the surgery.

"It's a testament to him that he played with this type of injury," Myerson said. "How he managed is beyond me. I can only imagine what he'll be like when he's fixed."

Although it is unclear whether the actual tearing of the ligament occurred in that Michigan State game on Sept. 19, there's no doubt that Clausen fought through significant discomfort/pain throughout the last two-and-a-half months of the season.

"I heard it pop," said Clausen of the original injury. "I thought I broke it."

There were numerous times throughout the remaining nine games that Clausen aggravated the injury and hobbled around the field. Against Navy in the ninth game of the season, he took a blow to his left hand and chin on a run to the goal line, yet didn't miss a snap and nearly led the Irish to a come-from-behind victory.

Despite the season-long injury, Clausen still managed to throw for 3,722 yards, 28 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 68.0 completion percentage. Clausen finished third nationally in passing efficiency with a 161.42 mark, behind only Boise State's Kellen Moore and Florida's Tim Tebow.

According to the report, Clausen's pain continued in workouts in December, and his agent, Gary Wichard, suggested that he undergo an MRI. The test revealed two torn ligaments in his right big toe. Dr. David Thordarson of the USC Medical Center suggested surgery, and Myerson concurred. The surgery will re-attach the ligaments.

Friend quoted a league executive who said, "The fact that (Clausen) played through that (injury) just shows his toughness and love (for) the game, and more importantly, his commitment to his teammates."

The NFL draft is slated for the fourth weekend in April.


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