Kelley feels fine, Friedgen cautious

Cleared for practice, quarterback wants to compete for starting job

College Football

August 10, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - A nervous-looking Chris Kelley spoke yesterday during Maryland's football media day at the Gossett Team House, in advance of his team's first full-squad practice this morning.

Earlier this week, the quarterback and Germantown native was cleared to practice, barely three months after injuring his right knee and jeopardizing his 2002 season.

Now, Kelley wants to challenge Scott McBrien and Orlando Evans for the starting job that he would have had if not for the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered on the last day of spring practice.

"Nobody in here, no coach or no doctor, has pressured me into coming back," the sophomore said in his first public statements since early May. "This is my choice."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen plans to use a hands-off policy on all quarterbacks during this month's practices leading up to the team's season opener against Notre Dame in East Rutherford, N.J., on Aug. 31.

"I can tell you this much: We won't be letting the guys hit the quarterbacks," the coach said.

Kelley, who was mostly inactive the previous two years because of injuries to his other knee (he played in two games last season), was injured while trying to cut on the grass on April 27 in a spring scrimmage.

Upset for the first few days after his injury, he vowed to play again this season and used rehabilitation sessions of as long as five hours to come back.

"This is what I envisioned for myself three months ago," he said. "This is not a surprise for me."

Kelley says his most-recently injured knee feels fine, without any evidence of pain or soreness.

After his speedy comeback, however, Kelley said he would like to take it relatively slow from here, shying away from questions about his ability to play in three weeks.

"I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about putting my feet under me and getting ready to work hard," he said. "I think I'm in real good shape. If I'm ready, I'm ready."

Meanwhile, linebacker E.J. Henderson expects to be in good shape following back surgery in April. He said he's 90 percent recovered.

After missing spring practice, he said, "I'm just trying to make it back on the 31st, giving 110 percent. I'm working hard every day, just trying to make it back to the top."

Friedgen said that he will look closely at how Henderson hits in practice. After recording 150 tackles (24 for losses) last season, the Aberdeen native is crucial to Maryland's success.

"He is the heart and soul of our defense," the coach said. "The way he played last year, it was amazing."

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