From head to toe, three things are immediately noticeable when Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon takes the field.
— His mouthpiece looks like vampire fangs. Nothing special, he says. Just something the team dentist designed for him a few years back when he was with the Indianapolis Colts.
— He appears to be the only NFL player whose jersey has a cedilla, the curvy thing that dangles from the letter "c." His parents are from Haiti, accounting for his French name. He speaks Creole and understands French, although he says the French class he took in college didn't help much at all.
— He's makes the Redskins offense a lot better, even though he's playing with a toe that hurts. And hurts. And hurts. And has been hurting for some 2½ months.
"I think I'm going to make it through the whole season," Garcon said this week. "Hopefully nothing crazy happens. But I've been dealing with the pain for so long now, it's only getting numb to it or getting used to it."
When Garcon caught the first touchdown pass of Robert Griffin III's career — 88 yards in the season-opening win over the New Orleans Saints — little did anyone know that the moment would yield as much frustration as excitement. Garcon tore a ligament in the second toe on his right foot while sprinting to the end zone, and the intervening weeks have been flush with thoughts of how to play through pain, how best to avoid surgery and whether he should even try to play again this season.
"It is frustrating because it's just a toe," Garcon said. "But it plays a big part. I need my toes to push off."
Garcon returned for Weeks 4 and 5, but he clearly wasn't physically ready and served more as a decoy than anything else, catching four passes for 44 yards. It looked like more of the same when he returned for again this month against the Philadelphia Eagles, catching three passes for a tepid 5 yards.
Coach Mike Shanahan wasn't certain whether Garcon would be able to play again four days later against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving because of the possible effect of the stadium's artificial surface on his toe.
"No matter what, I have to go out there and play," Garcon said. "If it's grass, turf, AstroTurf, concrete — I've got to be out there no matter what. It's going to be a pain throughout the year."
Against the Cowboys, Garcon looked again like the player signed to a $42.5 million, five-year contract to fill the team's need for a No. 1 receiver. He had five catches for 93 yards, including a 59-yard acrobatic catch-and-run score that gave nary a hint of anything wrong with his foot.
"He just brings a different attitude to the receiving corps," Griffin said. "He's our guy. Having him out there is definitely a plus. ... He was in his own world. That's how he is when he's out there. He plays in the zone and I think it helps the other receivers to have him out there."
The Redskins (5-6) hope Garcon can play another key role in Monday night's NFC East showdown against the New York Giants (7-4), but the fickle foot means offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will have to be flexible with the game plan.
"You never know because he's not 100 percent healthy," Kyle Shanahan said. "But when he does feel good, he's a big-time player. And when he's not fully going, I still think (having) him out there help us. ... It makes me a little less decisive in what we're going to open up with and stuff we're going to do, but it's definitely a problem I don't mind having."
Still to be decided is how and when the toe will heal. Garcon has never had surgery, and he's adamant that he'll opt for it only as a last resort.
"It's slowly going away," Garcon said. "The surgery is not something I want to do. But if a few doctors say I need it, then I'll probably do it. But if I don't need it, I'm not getting it."
Notes: LB London Fletcher (sprained left ankle) and LT Trent Williams (left thigh bruise) again did not practice. ... Griffin was chosen as the NFL's offensive rookie of the month for November. He also won the honor for the month of September.
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