Cooper, Wittman reach training truce


The Kenny Cooper-Tim Wittman case is closed for now.

Cooper, the coach, and Wittman, the player, agreed to disagree yesterday on how Wittman should train on his own time to play for the Baltimore Blast.

"We have philosophical differences on training," said Cooper, who was relieved to find out that Wittman's freak weightlifting accident resulted only in a strained lower-back muscle and no bone damage. "There are two agendas of training for Timmy. We [Blast] have ours, and Timmy has his. We don't want to stop him from doing things that make him feel good, but we don't want him to wear himself down at the end of the season, like he did last year [Wittman collapsed in a hotel room in Dallas after becoming dehydrated]."

The Cooper-Wittman differences came to a head Tuesday when Wittman missed the opening day of training camp because of the back injury that occurred during a weight-training session two days before camp opened.

Wittman said he believes he can build strength and agility by lifting weights. But Cooper and the Blast have told Wittman in the past they don't want him lifting weights during the season.

"I'm not saying weights won't help Timmy," said Cooper. "But we don't want him going home and lifting weights after he has been training all day. When he does lift weights in the off-season, we want him to concentrate on strengthening his knees and ankles."

Wittman missed a second day of training camp yesterday but said he will return as "soon as the back feels better. It's a day-to-day thing."

Cooper said Wittman's accident caused him "a sleepless night. I was anxious to see him out there for the opening of camp. I wanted to see him on the line with Rusty [Troy] and Billy [Ronson]. Timmy's been here 10 years, and I know he believes his way of training is best. But when you talk about lower-back injuries, I get very scared."

NOTES: Another day passed yesterday without a ruling by arbitrator George Nicolau on the grievance filed by newly acquired Blast forward Dale Mitchell against the Kansas City Comets. Will Bray, assistant to Major Soccer League Players Association director John Kerr, said Nicolau will rule today or tomorrow on Mitchell's request to be a free agent. If Mitchell becomes a free agent, he most likely would sign with the Tacoma Stars and Carl Valentine would return to the Blast. Valentine was traded to the Comets on Aug. 20 for Mitchell.

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